While New Year’s Eve may be about fun, frolicking and fireworks for us, it can be a time of distress and anxiety for our pets. With advice from Dogs Trust and BVA, here are some things owners can do to help keep pets calm during the celebrations of the New Year.
BVA President and small animal vet, Daniella Dos Santos, said, “Fireworks phobia and distress in pets is an issue that vets often see around New Year’s Eve. Even if you don’t expect your pet to be anxious, consider making things as comfortable as possible for them to help them through the evening.
“There are various things that owners can do to help their pets including providing your pet with a cosy, dark den to help them feel safe, closing curtains and turning the lights off. Having the radio or television on low in the background can also help. If you are having a party, remember to move any small pets in cages or tanks to a quiet area of the house.
“If your pet is significantly distressed by fireworks, we’d encourage you to speak to your local vet as early as possible to discuss possible treatment options that may help in the long term. Remember to check the out of hours, emergency opening times for the Christmas period.”
Jenna Kiddie, Head of Canine Behaviour at Dogs Trust, said, “Dogs have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans, so the loud cracks and bangs of fireworks can often be a terrifying and confusing experience for them. Fireworks tend to be sudden, unpredictable and bright. This combination can be distressing and have a lasting impact on dogs.
“There are lots of things owners can do to help make fireworks less stressful for their dogs. Simple steps such as providing safe spaces for them to hide or settling them before the fireworks start can make a big difference. We would also urge anyone thinking of putting on their own fireworks display to consider the welfare of their four-legged friends and others in the neighbourhood by following our Firework Dog Code.”
Walk before dark
Make sure your dog is well-exercised and has had a toilet break before the fireworks begin. The brighter it is outside, the less likely it is that you will be surprised by any early displays.
Adjust feeding routine
Always provide a supply of fresh drinking water and ensure your pet is fed before the fireworks begin. When anxious and distressed by fireworks, it is unlikely your pet will want to eat anything and it may take hours before they are comfortable enough to do so again.
Create a safe space
Make your house and garden safe and secure during the fireworks, as your pet might try to escape when fearful. Close windows and curtains and provide background noise such as calm music to help mask the scary sounds.
You can also start creating a well-padded den for your pet to access ahead of NYE so they have a safe place to hide when fireworks or loud music start. Pheromone products, prescribed by your vet, can also be used next to your pets’ den and around the house to help calm them.
Remain calm yourself
If your pet is distressed, remain calm yourself – if they notice you behaving strangely (like following them around and fussing over them) they’ll sense that something is wrong. Behaving like normal may decrease their anxiety. Restlessness or toileting in the house can be signs of stress, so don’t punish them.
Visiting the vets
Ensure your pet is microchipped and your details are up to date on the database, in case they run away from home.
If you know that your pet is prone to serious distress due to fireworks or other noises, contact your local vet in advance to discuss treatment options. With patience and commitment, a phobia of fireworks can be effectively treated with appropriate behaviour-modification techniques.
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