Advice for managing animals during a fireworks display

 

We like many people love fireworks, but we also have pets that don't like them so much. If your pets don't like a thunderstorm, the chances are they won't like fireworks either.  Keeping them safe and providing a calm environment for them during a firework display is vital. To that end we have compiled the advice from the RSPCA and First Aid for Pets, to ensure we provide an accurate guide on how to keep your pets as safe and stress free as possible during fireworks. Our goal is for everyone to continue to enjoy fireworks while making the celebrations less frightening for those animals who find them stressful

Why are some animals scared of fireworks?

Animals have heightened acute hearing senses, so loud bangs and whistles can cause some pets pain and also frighten them.

The noise and unpredictability of fireworks can be perceived as a threat, triggering a flight or fight response. For example, dogs may bark or run away.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to minimise the impact fireworks can have on some animals. 
 

Is your pet frightened of fireworks?

If your pet shows these distress signs, they could be frightened of fireworks:

  • Growling

  • Barking

  • Ears flattening to their head

  • Tucking their tail between their legs

  • Cowering

  • Licking their lips 

  • Raised hair on the back of their necks

However, more extreme symptoms such as, destructiveness, aggression, licking and chewing, diarrhoea and a change in eating habits could be down to another underlying cause, so consult a vet. 

The big don’ts

  • Don’t take any pets with you to a display.

  • Don’t leave your pets alone in the house if you think they might be distressed by the fireworks.

  • Don’t leave your pet in a car, the garden or tied up outside.

  • Don’t punish your pets if they are scared and become destructive, this is likely to make the situation worse.

Dogs

Here are our tips specifically for dog owners when the fireworks start:

  • Walk your dog in daylight hours, avoiding the likelihood you’ll be out when fireworks are set off. Plus, a tired dog is likely to be more relaxed later on.

  • Close all windows, doors, blinds and curtains to muffle firework bangs and black out the room to remove any flashing lights.

  • Provide plenty of toys and anything else your dog enjoys.

  • Put on the radio, music or TV to play soothing sounds over the fireworks and create calming white noise.

  • Create hiding places around your own home. Your dog will then have somewhere to hide if they want to.

  • Behave as normally as possible - make sure you don’t react to any firework noise as they may pick up on your anxiety. 

  • Leave plenty of water out for your dog - they may pant when they’re stressed, so keep them hydrated. 

  • Feed your dog before the fireworks start - a carb heavy meal may make them sleepy.

  • Consider investing in a 'thundershirt', that helps to keep pets calm during anxiety triggering times such as bonfire night. The vest provides a relaxing pressure on a dog’s core.

How to plan ahead:

Create a doggy safe den for your pets to feel safe. Choose a quiet area or room in your house; the area needs to be somewhere your dog feels in control so it’s best not to impose yourself when your dog is in their safe haven. Fill the haven with blankets and cushions which will be great noise-absorbers. 

Train your dog to associate the haven with enjoyable, positive experiences. For example, put their favourite toys and some chews into the haven, and give them praise and treats when they go in. Make sure the area is always accessible and put the toys away when they’re not in use. 

The aim is to create such a safe, happy area, that your dog will choose to go there when fireworks are let off because they believe they won’t be harmed. 

Long term protection:

If your pet is extremely anxious and distressed, longer term actions can be taken to prepare and help them through the fireworks season such as behavioural therapy and pheromone diffusers. 

Firework phobia is absolutely treatable so animals don't need to be distressed during every fireworks season. Consult your vet who may be able to refer you to a professional clinical animal psychologist. We’d recommend seeking this advice 3-6 months before fireworks season. 

The Dogs Trust has created a fantastic free therapy pack - Sound Therapy 4 Pets - This was designed by vets to gradually expose dogs to loud noises. This helps them to be more equipped to cope with fireworks and other very loud noises.

We also highly recommend taking either a practical or online first aid course by First Aid For Pets  so you are as equipped as possible in a medical emergency. The courses were developed by experts and aim to give you the knowledge to help your pet or another dog, should an unfortunate accident occur. It’s perfect for any pet owners to gain the confidence and necessary skills to help your dog before veterinary support is available. 

Cats

Cats have very sensitive ears so fireworks can also be traumatic for cats. Here are our top tips to keep your cat safe during fireworks:

  • Make sure there’s somewhere for your cat to hide, they tend to feel safe behind or under furniture, on top of a wardrobe or in a corner.

  • Don’t try and coax out your cat from their safe place or pick them up when they are scared. Leave them in control when they are distressed.

  • Prep ahead and get your cat microchipped/collars up to date, just in case of an unfortunate escape during fireworks season. 

Small outdoor animals

Don’t forget about your smaller animals that live outside such as rabbits and guinea pigs - they too can be distressed during loud noises.

  • Attempt to soundproof any cages and hutches as much as possible and partly cover them to minimise light flashes (but make sure there is ventilation and they can still see out so they’re not frightened even more). 

  • Put out lots of extra blankets so your smaller animals have somewhere to burrow. 

  • Consider bringing their cage or pen inside into a shed or garage. If you can’t bring it inside, turn the hutch to face a wall or fence instead of towards an open garden.

Horses and ponies

Horses and ponies can also be spooked and scared by fireworks, but there are measures you can take to keep them safe:

  • During fireworks season, attempt to keep their routine as normal as possible e.g. if your animal is usually kept in a field, don’t change this up (as long as it is far away from any known fireworks displays). Do check that the fencing is secure to help avoid any injuries.

  • If your horse is usually in stable, secure their hay nets so they don’t get caught in them and check their space for anything that could harm them, such as anything sticking out of the walls.

  • Contact any local display organisers and ask them to set them off as far away as possible from your horse and at least in the opposite direction. 

  • If you are aware that there will definitely be fireworks nearby, try and make sure you or someone else experienced stays with them, and keep them as calm as possible. However, be careful as a spooked horse or pony can be dangerous, so make sure you keep out of their way. 

  • Don’t risk riding your horse or pony when there’s a chance that fireworks will be set off.

  • If your pet has previously been scared by fireworks, contact your vet for advice before the season, and consider moving them for a night when you know a display is planned.

Use Low Noise Fireworks Instead

The range and quality of Low Noise Fireworks has made great strides forward in recent years and they significantly reduce the chance of animal distress. We carry a large stock of Low Noise Fireworks and would encourage you to look at the Low Noise section on our website. 

What does the UK fireworks law say?

  • You cannot set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for the following times:

  • Bonfire Night - the cut off is midnight on this day. 

  • New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year - the cut off is 1am at these events. 

  • You cannot set off or throw fireworks in public places.

  • You cannot buy fireworks if you are under 18.

Set the mood and be proactive

Try and stay relaxed and act normal during fireworks as animals can sense any tension you have. Praise your pets for their calm behaviour and take the lead from your pet - if they usually calm down with cuddling and stroking, then try that or let them hide if they’d rather do that. 

We know there are likely to be fireworks around Bonfire night and New Year’s Eve but you can be proactive to find out about any private fireworks displays at other times.