Animals have a very acute sense of hearing. This can lead to them becoming agitated and distressed when confronted with loud, unexpected noises. About 49% of dog owners have reported that their pet is frightened of loud noises. Sound sensitivities are rarely reported in the cat, however they are more likely so run away and hide from the noise, so their distress is less obvious to their owners
At times like Nov 5th and New Year’s Eve when chances of fireworks are high, planning is critical. Before the night, identify a safe location in the house (for cats and dogs), or move hutches to a secure location.
For dogs make a den and give them time to get used to it. On the night, close windows and darken rooms as dusk approaches. Turn on the radio or tv to disguise bangs and flashes, but don’t have the volume blaring as this can cause stress itself. Favourite chews or toys can provide a distraction. It is important to quietly reward them when they are show that they are coping well, and not when they are showing signs of stress. Do not leave them alone on nights where there are likely to be fireworks. However, do not fuss over them when they show signs of stress as this will reinforce that the stress reaction is appropriate. Even with all these strategies some animals will still show significant stress and these will benefit from medication. Please contact the surgery well in advance of fireworks night if you feel your pet will need medication, as the dose required will vary from dog to dog. It is important to work out the appropriate dose in advance of it being needed.
For cats it is crucial to keep them indoors during this time. Ensure they are indoors well before dusk, lock cat flaps and make sure they have litter trays. Provide hidey holes and make sure they are accessible. Have food, water and litter tray nearby. Again closing windows, darkening the room and having background noise will reduce the impact of the loud bangs on your pet.
Don’t forget about small furries, especially those in the garden. Where possible, move hutches to a safe and quiet location. Where this can’t be done, soundproofing using bales of straw or blankets around the hutch can be helpful. Ensure there is plenty of bedding to allow them to hide if they are feeling stressed.
Animals that are born in the autumn and that hear fireworks while they are young, will accept these noises much more readily. It is important to not stop them from hearing fireworks, but just monitor to ensure they are not showing any signs of stress. For those born in the new year, who are unlikely to hear fireworks until they are 9-10 months old, you can prepare them by playing cds of fireworks and other loud noises. It is important to start the cds off at a low volume and gradually increase to volume while monitoring for any signs of stress. Reward the puppy for any good adaptive behaviours.
For those dogs that become very distressed when fireworks go off, it is possible to desensitise them to these noises. Again using a cd of the sounds, and starting at a low volume. This process takes a long time and needs to be done carefully. Please speak to one of the vets at the surgery if you would like to try and desensitise your dog.