Fireworks – Fizz, bang, flight, fright!


Gone are the days when Bonfire Night was just November 5th.  It’s pretty much Bonfire Season now, stretching from Halloween straight through and beyond Bonfire Night.  With this season comes the loud firework bangs – making a lot of pets upset and nervous.  For dogs, the signs are pretty obvious with trembling, shaking and hiding being the most obvious, as well as some destructive actions all in their desperate attempt to get away. We would like to offer you some advice on how to care for your pets.

What can we do ahead of time

Build a den, a hideaway or retreat.  Call it what you will, it’s somewhere that a pet can escape to within your home and where he/she can feel safe.  There tend to be two options when confronted by danger, flight or fright.   The former would be a problem as running from the noise is uncontrolled and means that a dog can be exposed to further dangers e.g. running into the road.  Fright causes us to freeze, and in a pet’s case, seek a hiding place.  That’s where the den comes in.  Getting this set up ahead of the firework season so your dog can spend time calmly in and around the den will encourage the den’s use when it’s firework time.  It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, just an area away from sights and sounds with plenty of towels/blankets/coats/ to deaden the sound.  Really, anything that allows your pet to burrow in nice and deep, and to get away from the sudden bangs.  One of the unfortunate side-effects of modern decor is that deep pile carpets and flock wallpaper are fast disappearing from homes, they did provide a degree of sound deadening.  Laminate flooring tends to rebound sounds around the room.  For cats, a den is often placed up high.  Top of the wardrobe is a typical spot, although plenty of cats will head for the airing cupboard or under the bed.  If your rabbit lives outside, partly cover the cage with blankets so that one area is well soundproofed.

Keep away from sedatives for a panicky dog if possible

For many years sedatives used as operation predications were all we could offer clients for their dogs.  Whilst it often stopped the outward signs of panic, it actually just left dogs unable to respond, so inwardly they were often still terrified by what was happening around them.  These days we have much better options if additional help beyond the safe refuge of a den is required.  The current approach seeks to provide a dog with a calmative or appeasing pheromones (as a spray or by tablet).  Like all behavioural treatments though, they’re not perfect remedies, but they certainly have a place alongside the hideaway.