They are not fun for everyone – how to prepare your pooch and bring in the new year safely.

While fireworks to us might be the symbols of celebration, festive spirit and a fresh start to a new promising year – to our pets it can be a night of explosions, terror and fear. More pets go missing on New Years Eve than almost any other night of the year so please prepare yourself, your home and your pooch. This will help ensure you don’t bring in the new year searching for a lost furry friend. We see more lost pets over New Years than any other time of the year – some just a little shaken and scared, but some come in injured requiring immediate care. Don’t let your pet be part of this statistic

Why do dogs fear fireworks?

This is best answered by understanding how dogs experience fireworks. We know and can process what fireworks are and that they are an expression of celebration. To an unsuspecting pooch, fireworks are loud explosions, emitting light and an unusual odour. Dogs have heightened senses of smell and sound – far superior to our own. The sound and smell of fireworks is magnified and their ability to comprehend the situation is minimal. You can’t explain to your pet what is happening. Pets are creatures of routine with a great fight or flight response and an unexpected explosion to anyone can be terrifying creating a range of responses depending on the pet.

Dangers of firework phobia

Phobias in pets can be destructive. Not that dissimilar to our recent post on storm phobia. If you have a pet who experiences storm phobia, there is a good chance fireworks will pose a similar problem. Pets react differently – some will insist on being close and you will find yourself with a new bed buddy, or they will hide and cower in a corner or under a bed. Anxiety can cause tremors to the point where heat stress can occur which is life threatening. The worst response is when you’re not home and they feel frightened to the point where they tremor, attempt to escape and either succeed and are lost in the streets or injure themselves in their desperate attempts to escape the sounds.

There will be fireworks tonight, what do I do?

You want to go out tonight with your family and watch the fireworks and celebrate, and poor pooch will be at home wondering what is happening. Creatures of routine, they will suspect something is afoot. Each pet responds differently and you would likely know by now if your pet experiences storm/firework phobias. We suggest similar treatment you would offer your pet if you were expecting a storm. Ensure your pet is secure within your home, perhaps leave the television or music playing to ease their nerves and make it feel more like you’re at home. Leave treats for your pet to keep them occupied. If you are really concerned about the well being of your pet – visit your vet today and ask them about behavioural programs and medical options to help aid your pet during the noisy festivities. In future, gradual exposure and positive reinforcement to help de-sensitise your pet can aid for future festive nights.

Signs to watch out for:

Signs your pet may be experiencing a fearful response to stimulus such as fireworks can include some or all of the following:

  • Hypersalivation
  • Excessive barking
  • Following you around anxiously and remaining close at all times – looking to you for comfort
  • Hiding/cowering
  • Tremoring and shaking
  • Excessive licking or scratching
  • Wide eyes
  • Attempting to escape

AES Tips for decreasing tonights firework fear phobias and keeping your pet safe:

  • Ensure your pet is microchipped with up to date details – in case he finds a way out and ends up lost and frightened.
  • Keep your pet securely indoors or in a small room with plenty of treats, toys and +/- music/tv playing to help eliminate the sound of the fireworks.
  • Take your pet for a long walk or play in the park/beach during the day to help relieve them of a buildup of energy that would add to their anxiety.
  • Remain calm. Don’t fuss over your pampered pooch if you are home with them during the experience. This will cause them to know something unusual is happening. They are very conscious of our behaviour and anything that breaks routine will be noticed. Fussing when your pet exhibits anxious behaviour is rewarding them for said behaviour and justifying their fears.
  • Know when fireworks are expected in your area so you can be prepared.

If you find yourself in a position where you think your pet might require veterinary attention or you need more information. Please contact your closest available veterinary professional.