When I first arrived here at Knutsford Veterinary Surgery we had a stray rabbit found…
A comprehensive guide to help ease fear and anxiety
Firework season is fast approaching – a time of year that many pet owners fear. The PDSA quoted that up to 40% of pet owners report that their pets are afraid of fireworks. Luckily, with the correct preparations, you can help keep your pet calm and safe. Preparing early can make a big difference, so begin making your plans now. These Bonfire Night tips for pets will help you keep them calm.
Fear & Anxiety Consultations
Book your appointment early ahead of Bonfire Night to ensure you and your pet get the support you need. We’ll offer tailored advice and medication should it be required.
How can a vet help?
All dog owners dread the thought of Bonfire Night, especially if their pet has had a known bad experience in previous years. Luckily, Bonfire Night is the same night each year, which makes it easy to prepare and a visit to the vets can do a world of good. Your vet can prescribe a range of medication that will help calm your pet and offer you personalised advice, but you’ll need to book a consultation first.
Here at Knutsford Vets we’re offering a discount on fear and anxiety related consultations to encourage owners to pay a visit ahead of Bonfire Night. This ensures we can understand how your animal has behaved in previous years and allows us to offer personalised advice to help you manage their anxiety.
You’ll also need a consultation to receive any medication. So book early to ensure you have everything you need, before it’s too late.
How can I tell if my pet is anxious?
All pets react different in certain situations, but you should not underestimate the stress and anxiety that Bonfire Night can present. This is particularly the case if you live in a built up area where a number of firework displays are happening at the same time or if there are professional displays in your area. We’ve listed some common signs of stress or anxiety below.
- Trembling and/or shaking
- Excessive barking
- Refusing to eat
- Toileting in the house
- Hiding behind or on top of furniture
- Running away
- Refusing to eat
- Toileting in the house
If your pet exhibited any of these signs last year, it’s highly recommended that you visit a vet for a consultation before Bonfire Night. We can give you helpful advice tailored to your pet’s behavior and prescribe medication should it be required.
Although it’s recommended that all pets are kept indoors on Bonfire Night, not all of them get nervous or stressed. You’ll still want to ensure someone stays with them and read our tips to help you prepare in case they become more scared this year.
Bonfire Night tips for pets
Despite the period around Bonfire Night being worrying for pet owners, there’s a lot that you can do to keep them calm. As with many things, the more prepared you are, the easier it is to handle it. These helpful Bonfire Night tips will help keep your pet calm at the start of November.
Previous studies in the past have shown that although many dogs are generally scared of loud noises such as fireworks, some dogs are affected more than others. In some instances, a noise phobia can be traced to a particular bad experience of a loud noise, but this is not always the case. You should also take care to ensure that you block any access to outside doors as dogs may try to escape and run away.
Walk your dog whilst it’s still daylight
Most Bonfire Night celebrations will start when the sun goes down. In November, this can be from around 5.30pm. If possible, taking your dog for a walk before then should ensure they get their exercise, maintain their routine and get hidden away before the big bangs begin. If you’ve got an energetic dog who needs exercise, it’s worth making special arrangements to ensure they get their walk before dark.
Build your dog a den
Creating your dog a den where they can hide away from any flashes or bangs is a great way to make them feel safe. We recommend using their favourite toys, treats, blankets and cushions to make them feel comfortable. Putting the hideaway in a room that they regularly use is best and it’s worth getting it ready a few days ahead of Bonfire Night to let them get used to it. Look out for our blog on building a den from our nurse Holly.
It is important if your dog is afraid of fireworks you do NOT excessively pet your animal; doing so will reinforce the idea in their head that there is something to be worried about. However, it is important that you keep them company as your presence will comfort them even if they hide.
If your dog has been scared of loud noises for many bonfire nights then you should book an appointment with us and we will offer advice and medication to calm your dog. It’s important that you ensure you arrange an appointment now to be most prepared.
Block or muffle out the noise
Ensuring all windows and curtains are closed will help muffle outside noise and ensuring that the TV is turned up loud or the radio is on will help block out the noise. You may also which to place cotton wool in your dog’s ears which can help.
Keep them in after dark
If you’re a cat owner, it’s worth ensuring that your pet is nice and safe at home before the sun goes down. If your cat is one to stay out late, it’s worth keeping them in doors in the afternoon and closing cat flaps. There is a risk that if your cat roams a long way from home and they get scared they could bolt further away causing them to get lost.
Allow them to hide
As a cat owner, you might spend the entire year chasing your pet away from areas of the house that they shouldn’t be in. On Bonfire Night, we encourage you to be a little more lenient and let them hide where they feel most comfortable (with some exceptions of course). It’s also worth creating some good spots for them to hide under or buying them a basket with a cover over the top. Any additional cove or tunnel is likely to help.
Other small animals
Bring your outdoor pet indoors
If you’ve got an animal that lives in a kennel or hutch in the garden, such as outdoor dogs, rabbits or guinea pigs, you’ll want to bring them indoors on Bonfire Night to prevent them from getting scared. Loud noises can be extremely stressful for small animals. Creating a space in your garage or shed should do the trick if you haven’t got a suitable crate to bring in the house.
Cover their house
If it’s not possible to bring your outdoor pet indoors, at the very least you should cover their house to block the flashing lights and loud bangs. An old duvet or carpet will help muffle the noise slightly as well as blocking any flashing lights after dark.
Move indoor pets away from windows
If you have small animals that live indoors, such as a hamster, rats or caged birds, you’ll want to move them away from the window. We recommend putting them in a room with no windows for the evening or at the very least closing the curtains.
Keep the TV or Radio on
Whether you stay in the house with your pet or not, it’s a good idea to put the TV or Radio on for your animal. The sound of voices will help distract them from loud noises outside and dampen their sensitivity to it.
Stay close if your pet wants you to
If your pet wants to be near you for some familiar comfort you should let them. The presence of a familiar person will help put them at ease and calm their nerves. Reassure them, but don’t make too much of a fuss as they may sense that something is amiss. If you’re at all concerned about your animal getting stressed or anxious then it’s important someone sits in with them on Bonfire Night.
Use a pheromone plug-in
Artificial pheromone sprays mimic the scent of a pets mother, which causes a pet to feel calmer and safe. Here at Knutsford Vets we stock Adaptil diffusers for dogs and Feliway for cats. We recommend they are started 2 weeks before they are required for them to get used to the scent and be most effective with your pet.
It can be tempting, especially if your animal is behaving particularly anxious, to make a big fuss of them in a bid to reassure them. Unfortunately, this can work the opposite way as your pet reacts to unusual behaviour. Stay calm and offer them gentle reassurance, but try to behave as you would on any normal night.
Play with your pet to distract them
A good way to take your pet’s mind off the loud noises and bangs is by playing with their favourite toys. However, if your pet is nervous and not interested in playing then give them space and let them relax.
Ensure your pet is microchipped
Hopefully it won’t come to this, but in the event that your pet bolts due to fear, ensure that they are microchipped to give them every opportunity of being returned to you safely. A collar with contact details on is also a useful addition for these situations.
Use calming products on the market
Pheromone products such as Adaptil collars or Adaptil diffusers have great evidence behind them demonstrating their effectiveness. The natural chemical signals of these pheromones calm the dog when they are showing signs of stress. They’re also useful in other anxieties such as travel or being left at home alone.
Nutracalm is a fantastic supplement that contains several natural calming compunds such as GABA, L-theonine and L-tryptophan which all work to lower anxiety levels and allow your dog to feel comfortable when fireworks are exploding all around.
Thunder shirts are a great addition in stressed dogs and can have a real calming effect when used in addition to the techniques mentioned above.
Finally, in some animals all these measures are sometimes just not enough so a trip to Knutsford vets may be required. We have a range of pharmaceutical options that can be used alongside behavioural modification to calm and de-stress your dog.