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Help your pet cope with fireworks stress with early preparations, urges BVA

29 Dec 2021

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It's important to be prepared if you think your pet may be distressed or frightened by fireworks on New Year's Eve.

Help your pet cope with fireworks stress with early preparations, urges BVA Image

With New Year’s Eve just a few weeks away, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued advice for owners to help keep their animals calm and happy if celebrations go off with a bang.

Noise from fireworks is capable of being as loud as a jet engine – reaching up to 150 decibels – so New Year’s Eve can very quickly become stressful for pets and owners alike. BVA is encouraging owners of dogs, cats and other pets which may be particularly sensitive to noise, to make sure they are prepared if they suspect their pet may become distressed.

With the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) saying that 3.2 million UK households have acquired a new pet since the start of the pandemic, BVA is particularly concerned owners of ‘pandemic puppies’ and other new pets may underestimate the effect fireworks may have on their furry companions and is advising them to take precautions.

BVA’s President Justine Shotton: “Fireworks may be a fun way to celebrate the start of a new year for humans but for many animals, the loud noises and bright flashes may mean it ends up being a really frightening evening.

“We know many households have welcomed new pets into their families and we are concerned that if proper measures to prepare them or support them on the night are not put into place these animals could become very distressed and not understand what’s happening.

“Whether your pet is a new addition or a long-loved member of your family, if you believe they suffer from noise phobia it is important that you contact your vet early to get advice on how to reduce stress.

“Signs they may be suffering from noise phobias may include being frightened of or running away from vacuum cleaners, crying children or loud bangs but they may also be more subtle, such as demonstrating a reluctance to be on their own or a change in facial expression or their normal behaviour.”

If your pet is severely distressed by fireworks or other noises, BVA encourages pet owners to visit their vet to discuss treatment options. Firework phobia can be effectively treated with behaviour-modification techniques, which can achieve long-term success with professional input and owner commitment and patience.

It is particularly important owners act early this year as many vet practices are experiencing shortages, meaning there may be longer waits for requested appointments.

Dr Shotton added: “Taking the time to prepare will help your pet feel calmer and safer in their home and will help you both to have a happy New Year’s Eve, rather than a stressful one.”

Five top tips for helping keep your pets calm during fireworks:

  • Prepare a den for your pet around two weeks before fireworks season and give them praise when they are relaxed there, so they come to view it as a safe retreat.
  • Use pheromone products next to the den and around the home. These are scents that we can’t smell but can help to reduce a pet’s stress.
  • Provide background noise and close curtains and windows on nights when fireworks are expected.
  • Remain calm yourself. Try not to be too animated when reassuring your pet as this often inadvertently reinforces anxious behaviour. Never punish your pet – remember, if they toilet in the house it’s not their fault
  • Move small pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, to a quiet place indoors when fireworks are expected, and provide lots of bedding to mask the sounds.

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