They are not fun for everyone
While fireworks to us might be the symbols of celebration, festive spirit and a fresh start to a new promising year – for our pets it can be a night of explosions, terror and fear. More pets go missing on New Year's Eve than almost any other night of the year. In our hospitals we see more lost pets over the New Year period than any other time of the year - some just a little shaken and scared, but some come in severely injured. Don't let your pet be part of this statistic, please take the time to prepare yourself, your home and your pooch for any upcoming fireworks. These following tips will help ensure you don’t bring in the new year searching for a lost furry friend, and answer the commonly asked question how do I calm down a dog scared of fireworks?
Why do dogs fear fireworks?
This is best answered by understanding how dogs experience fireworks. Dogs have heightened senses of smell and sound – far superior to our own. To an unsuspecting pooch, fireworks are loud explosions, emitting light and an unusual odour. Fireworks are not an everyday occurrence, which adds to the terror our fury friends experience. Their ability to comprehend the situation is minimal, you can’t explain to your pet what is happening. Our pets are creatures of routine with a great fight or flight response and an unexpected explosion can be terrifying, creating a range of responses depending on your pet.
Dangers of firework phobia
Phobias in dogs can be destructive and dangerous, to them and to others. If your dog experiences storm phobia there is a good chance fireworks will pose a similar problem. All pets will react differently – some will insist on being close and you will find yourself with a new bed buddy, or they will hide under a bed, or cower in a corner. Dogs, in particular, will often try to run away from the loud noise fireworks produce and can end up kilometres away from home. Frightened dogs have been known to severely injure themselves in their desperate attempts to escape the sound. These injuries can be from wounds from jumping over or digging under fences that normally contain them, jumping through glass windows, and car accidents.
Anxiety from fireworks can also cause tremors to the point where heat stress can occur from muscles continually contracting, which is life threatening.
Signs your dog is scared of fireworks
Dogs who are scared of fireworks can show a number of different signs. If fireworks are taking place near you, watch out for these following signs in your pooch:
- Excessive barking
- Following you around anxiously and remaining close at all times – looking to you for comfort
- Experiencing tremors or shaking
- Excessive licking or scratching
- Wide eyes
- Attempting to escape
There will be fireworks tonight, what do I do?
You want to go out to watch the fireworks and celebrate with friends and family, but your poor pooch will be at home, what should you do? If you already know your dog experiences storm or noise phobias, it is likely they will have the same reaction to fireworks. We suggest similar treatment you would offer your pet if you were expecting a storm or if there were loud noises around.
Top tips for keeping your dog safe during fireworks
How do you calm down a dog scared of fireworks? There are a number of measures you can put in place, both before fireworks start and during, to keep your pet safe. Here are a few of our tips:
- Know when fireworks are expected so you can prepare early.
- Ensure your pet exercises beforehand, as a tired and well-fed pet can be less anxious.
- Supervision is important to help prevent your pet from escaping or injuring themselves. If you aren't able to supervise, consider making arrangements with someone who can.
- Keep your dog inside if possible. This will not only reduce the sound of the fireworks for them but also ensure they don't run away.
- Create a safe, quiet place inside with a comfortable hiding place, and close blinds to reduce visual stimuli. Pets will usually show their preferences for hiding places, such as in wardrobes or under the bed. It is best to allow them to go where they feel safe.
- Use music or the TV to mask the noise.
- Remain calm, perform normal activities and avoid fussing over your pet as this can encourage anxious behaviour.
- Distract them with games, favourite toys and treats.
- Don't punish your pet for being afraid. This is a normal reaction and punishment can lead to their behaviour worsening. It is best to offer comfort and use distraction techniques.
- Ensure your fence and gates are secure and your pet can't easily escape through, under or over them.
- Ensure your pet is microchipped and details are up to date, in case they do escape.
- Gradual exposure and positive reinforcement to help desensitise your pet.
- Speak with your vet about treating noise phobias through behavioural programs and medical options.
When do fireworks take place?
In Queensland fireworks usually take place during these events:
- New Year's Eve
- Chinese New Year
- Australia Day
- The Ekka
- Brisbane Riverfire
Please remember to check your local government and community's websites for when fireworks will be occurring in your area, and take steps to protect your pets.