Fireworks season is one of the most stressful times of the year for our pets - and owners
If your dog or cat is scared of loud noises, Guy Fawkes night on 5th November and the endless fireworks that go off before and after can be a nightmare.
Where I live, bangers started in September and I expect them to drag on into January. This is the case in many towns and cities across the country.
And having spent eight years with Daisy - who was really sensitive to noise and HATED fireworks - I’m very aware of the anxiety this brings.
According to RSPCA figures, 45 per cent of pets are the same and the PDSA found 40 per cent of dogs and 38 per cent of cats were scared of fireworks.
As an owner you feel helpless. It’s horrible seeing them distressed but there are things you can do in advance to help them.
These are my tips on coping with fireworks and some of the things that help my dogs feel safe and stay calm.
Daisy relaxing in her crate
1. Create a safe den or hideaway
Making a cosy den is something you can do for dogs and cats. For Daisy, we bought a blackout crate cover with roll up doors - you can have the cover down or up and it muffles sound.
Putting blankets over a regular crate has the same effect.
Fill it with a nice comfy bed, a blanket that smells familiar, and toys. Patch uses it and we give him a stuffed Kong or treats to enjoy in there so he sees it as a positive place.
It’s in our living room, he goes in and out of it whenever he pleases and we don’t shut the doors - it’s his ‘bedroom’ and a place to relax and feel safe.
For cats, having an igloo style hideaway which is higher up can make them feel more comfortable. Animal Instincts do a very reasonable one for £14.97 that could be put on shelves or drawers.
Again, pop some of their favourite toys or treats in so they associate it with things they enjoy.
Patch in his den
2. Exercise them as much as you can in the daytime
No matter where you live, kids will set off bangers and being in the vicinity of a firework is terrifying. Each year, you hear of dogs bolting off and going missing for days.
Website Doglost.co.uk say they deal with hundreds more cases of missing dogs at this time of year because they run away after being frightened by fireworks.
So ensure your dog has most of their exercise in daylight - before people feel the need to set off fireworks.
If you take them out in the garden to go to the loo later keep a close eye on them. I would take Daisy out on her lead just in case the gate was ajar and she ran off.
It might sound over cautious but it’s best to be on the safe side. With cats, keep them indoors from late afternoon and make sure your microchip details are up to date.
3. Take them on a doggy vacation
Last year I was living in Lymm, very close to the village centre, with loads of displays on the weekend before Bonfire night and on November 5th.
As Daisy was older, we decided to take her on a mini break over the first week in November and went to Sleights on the Yorkshire Coast.
We researched a lot beforehand and found a gorgeous cottage in a quiet village with barely any fireworks at all. If it’s possible for you to do the same I would highly recommend it.
Even though Patch isn’t reactive to fireworks, we’re planning a staycation somewhere quiet this year too just to be on the safe side.
Daisy on her firework escaping staycation!
4. Play calming music
We use a Spotify playlist called Relaxing Music for Dogs and it’s brilliant. It’s a little like the music you have in a spa.
With Daisy, we took her out for long walks during the day then in the evening, we closed the curtains to muffle any sound and light, put on the music and she relaxed and snoozed by the fire.
As we were in a remote spot, it pretty much drowned out any noise and made for a far less stressful time for her and for Tommy and I too.
Daisy relaxing by the fire
5. Try a herbal calming supplement or compound
Try a supplement like YuCalm Dog and YuCalm Cat. They’re tasty and you can put them inside some of their food in a Kong or chew toy, as the act of chewing calms your pet.
They contain Lemon Balm to help them relax but it’s not a sedative and can start to take effect in a few days. We used them to help Patch settle in after adopting him in August.
Lintbells worked with Bristol University to develop this treatment to reduce feelings of anxiety for dogs but to help them overcome the issue they were scared of by re-introducing them to it with positive rewards.
The supplements contain L-Theanine Green Tea extract and White fish protein extract which supports the feelings of reward and Vitamin B.
John Howie, co-founder of Lintbells explains: “You start by helping them feel calmer, and when they feel calmer they’re more receptive to training or the message your giving them, then the other extracts trigger the feeling of reward and playfulness.
“Because they feel better about the situation they’re in, there’s a positive cycle of calming and feel good behaviour.”
If you need something fast acting, try Dorwest Valerian Compound comes in liquid form and works in a few minutes, so you can give it to them if fireworks start unexpectedly.
YuCalm tablets can help pets calm down over bonfire night
6. Help them get used to the noise
Dog’s Trust have a ‘Sounds Scary’ programme developed by vets Sarah Heath and Jon Bowen and playlist you can use to acclimatise your pet.
It includes whistles and whooshes, bangs and pops, full fireworks and individual fireworks and it can help reduce fear by gradually exposing them to the noise in a safe environment.
Find out more here Dog’s Trust Sound Therapy For Pets.
7. Use a plug in diffuser or collar
Adaptil pheromone plug ins and collars for dogs and Feliway diffusers for cats can be used in the weeks and even months running up to Bonfire Night and New Year.
It’s recommended that they're used a month before you expect your pet to experience anxiety, so start using them now and expect to see a change in a week.
Dog appeasing pheromones - those released by their mother while in the litter which dogs find a comfort from being puppies throughout their lives - are released by both products.
These go via the nose to receptors in the brain to give a feeling of calm. With the collar, they are reassured whether they are indoors or outdoors.
The Adaptil Calm plug in diffuser circulates the same pheromones in the home and creates a comforting and safe environment for dogs of all ages.
With cats, plug ins which mimic the face pheromones such as Feliway Classic send a message to the cat that their environment or home is safe.
Ones that mimic the scent of a mother’s milk, like Feliway Friends, send signals that the owner is safe and helps humans and cats to bond.
Adaptil collars can reassure dogs inside and outside
8. Spritz their bandana with a calming spray
Pet Remedy spray is ideal to spritz on bandanas. Created by vets, it’s completely natural and can be used for dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and small furries.
It’s made of a mix of Valerian, Vetiver, Clary Sage and Sweet Basil essential oils and works by mimicking the pet’s own calming mechanisms.
When they become anxious, Pet Remedy sends messages from nerve cells to the brain to calm and acts almost instantly.
Pet Remedy comes in a diffuser too, and the spray is organic so kind to skin and fur, and with a delicate scent that won’t irritate pets.
Spraying Pet Remedy on bandanas can be comforting during the fireworks
9. Feed them a natural tablet to support them
There are two tablets for pets that can be given with food during times of stress.
The first is Zylkene which contains milk protein derivatives and magnesium to calm pets.
It’s designed to mix easily into your pet’s food and should be taken a couple of days before and after any event that might cause anxiety.
Anxitane chewable tablets are taken twice daily and contain natural L-Theanine to promote feelings of calm without making your pet drowsy.
They have a fish flavour to make them more appealing and can help pets stay alert and focused too.
10. Consult your vet
I’ve talked about some products I’ve tried and found helpful and medication that has been recommended by a trusted professionals and organisations.
But the vet who sees your pet regularly is the best person to advise you and ensure you don’t mix any of the tablets or supplements suggested here.
Finally, I hope you and your pets have a safe and stress free fireworks season.
- This post is sponsored by Animed Direct, an online retailer providing discounted medication, food, treats and accessories. To find out more about the products mentioned, visit www.animeddirect.co.uk
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