Many of us look forward to the warmth of a crackling bonfire to light up the lengthening nights of autumn and the anticipation of a good firework show. But many pet owners simply dread the nights surrounding the 5th November. At Ryedale Vets, we see many pet owners around this time of year at their wits’ end because their pets have extreme anxieties to firework explosions.
We hear stories of concerning behaviours—varying from shaking uncontrollably to excessive barking and howling to digging and scrabbling at doors in a desperate bid to escape. There are also harrowing stories of pets self-harming which are distressing for anyone to hear. We also hear of some who decide to up sticks and camp or caravan in isolated spots to avoid fireworks completely!
Unfortunately, there is little we can do to quickly alleviate these extreme anxieties. While we can provide and prescribe certain remedies to ease their stress and fear, they often have limited effects—especially when given close to the period when fireworks are being let off. However, there are a few things owners can do to prepare for the firework nights well in advance.
Firstly, the top way to tackle the psychological fears pets have of fireworks is through a process known as ‘desensitisation.’ This is a technique where sounds that pets find scary are played through a speaker firstly at a very low level in the background — so low that pets do not react to them. Over the course of weeks and months, owners can gradually increase the sound level to the point where pets are not reacting to the loud noises at all. This desensitisation technique requires consistency and persistence over many months to work properly, so it should be started well in advance of fireworks night. Some owners also find pets feel safer if they have their own space to go to when fireworks are being let off. This could be a crate for dogs that is fully covered with blankets or a large box for cats.
All our veterinary professionals at Ryedale Vets are available to discuss which techniques and set-up at home would work best for you and your pets. We are always happy to have chat about any concerns over the phone or in person.