Whilst fireworks are great fun for us, for millions of our pets, Bonfire Night and the firework season is a terrifying nightmare. Our pets don't understand the loud bangs and their hearing is so good they can hear distant fireworks we might not even notice.
Vets all over the country are flooded with worried owners this week, including PDSA where our pet hospitals have treated over 800 pets for fireworks phobias in the past year. Although it's best to prepare your pet well in advance, the good news is that there are still lots of things you can do to help your pet.
The signs - All pets can become anxious due to firework noises. Dogs might tremble, pace, pant or become 'clingy', while cats might try to hide behind furniture, or attempt to run away. Both dogs and cats might go off their food and may toilet in the house because of firework-related stress. Rabbits may freeze and remain motionless, or may panic and try to escape their hutches.
Avoid fireworks - Try to steer clear of fireworks by walking your dog early, before fireworks start and keep your cat shut inside after dusk. You can prevent escapes by keeping your doors, windows, cat flaps and curtains closed, and playing soothing music with a repetitive beat will help mask the noises.
Make a den - You can help your pet to feel more secure and relaxed by preparing a cosy den in the run up to any fireworks, like I've done myself with my new Border Terrier puppy Penny. Reward your pet when they spend time in there, so they learn the den is a safe place to hide if they get scared. For dogs, you can drape a blanket over a sofa or table and fill it with blankets, pillows and cushions to make it cosy. Cats often feel more secure in an enclosed environment - there are cat beds with soft roofs that might help them feel safe.
Pheromone products release scents that we can't smell, but pets can and they help keep pets relaxed and calm. You can start using these around the house and near to the den in the run up to fireworks season.
My dog Penny comfy in her den all ready for any fireworks!
Don't reward anxiety - Although our natural instinct is to try and comfort or reassure our pets if they are scared, this is inadvertently rewarding this behaviour so it's best to ignore them (I know it's hard!) and only reward or interact with them when they are relaxed and quiet.
Get your pet microchipped - Should the worst happen and your pet does run off or escape, you are much more likely to be reunited with them if they have a microchip. If your pet is already microchipped make sure your contact details are up to date with the company.
Socialisation - The most important thing you can do is to socialise your pet to loud noises and bangs well in advance of firework season so if you're pet is already afraid this could be your new year's resolution to make sure you're better prepared this time next year! I recently did this with Penny - noise phobia soundtracks are easily downloadable and we played it regularly, gradually increasing the volume as she got used to it.
Speak to your vet - If you've got a pet that you're worried about - speak to your vet as they will have lots of help and advice to help your pet overcome their fear.
For more information on pets and fireworks you can visit www.pdsa.org.uk/fireworks where you're able to download our free fireworks advice leaflet thanks to funding support from players of People's Postcode Lottery.