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Guy Fawkes can be an exciting time for us, but for our pets, it can be very stressful. It can cause them major distress and anxiety and in some cases, cause them to run away from home. The bright lights and loud noise aren’t something they are used to seeing and hearing every day and it can trigger stress-related behaviours such as hiding, pacing, and barking.

Prepare early with these helpful tips:

1. Check your pets’ microchip, collar and ID tag are up to date.
Every year many pets are reported missing. Ensuring your pet’s details are up to detail will help them get home if your pet does get scared and run from your property. If you have recently moved or your contact details have changed, make sure you have let us know and if your pet is registered with the New Zealand Companion Animal Register click here to check and update your details.

2. Get prepared
Guy Fawkes may be only a one day holiday, but fireworks can be let off at any time. Having products designed to help reduce anxiety on hand can help minimise your pet’s stress and anxiety. Here are some of the products we can recommend:
Nutrazyl tablets – you can purchase these over the counter.
Feliway Spray and diffuser for cats.
Adaptil Spray and diffuser for dogs.
Thundershirts – Applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant.
Royal Canin Feline Calm 2kg & 4kg.

3. Feed your pets before the fireworks start.
When your pet has a full stomach, they are more inclined to be more relaxed and feel sleepy.

4. Toilet Stops
Make sure your dog has been out to the toilet before the fireworks start and provide an indoor litter tray for your felines. Also, take your dog for a walk earlier in the day to avoid bring out when there is a risk of fireworks and help them to settle into the evening.

5. Lock your pets inside
Keeping your pets indoors is the best way to help reduce your pet’s stress. With the curtain’s pulled, the fireworks are out of sight and this also helps to reduce the noise. It’s a good idea to the lock the cat door too.

6. Turn on some background noise
Turning on the radio or television is another way to lessen the effects of fireworks. Turn on the lights to help make the firework flashes less obvious.

7. Providing safe houses
For small pets that are inside, giving them extra bedding can be helpful for them to burrow and make a ‘safe house’. Creating a ‘den’ for dogs also provides a safe place. For those living outside making sure their enclosure is covered with a blanket to help soundproof it. Creating a ‘den’ for dogs also provides a safe place. Try and introduce them to the ‘den’ before fireworks season starts so they can get used to it being a safe place. Below is a great example of what a ‘den’ looks like. (Photo courtesy of Larkmead Small Animals Vets).

8. Favourite toys and bedding
Providing your pets with their favourite toys and/or blankets is also another way they can be made to feel more comfortable.

9. If your pet prefers to hide, let them.
If your pet chooses to hide away while the fireworks are happening, this is okay. Leave them. Trying to get them to come out of hiding may stress them out more. They are trying to do what works best for them to cope with the scary noises.

10. Avoid cuddling your dog when they are scared!
I know it’s hard not to cuddle your dog when they are a shivering mess but try not to reward your dog for being afraid. Dog’s trust suggests talking to them and gently stroking them if they like this as you can’t make them more frightened by giving them support BUT you do need to work on things that will help them longer-term e.g. Den and desensitisation. Teach them to use the den to hide in if worried rather than relying on you for attention (takes time though).

Longer-Term options:
Desensitisation and counter-conditioning is a way to slowly teach your dog that the noises are not scary. It involves playing recorded sounds at a very low volume so that your dog is not concerned and then very slowly increasing the volume of the sounds over a period of weeks/months. The process has to be done very slowly so that the dog does not show any signs of being scared. You should also try to associate the sounds with something positive like play or yummy treats. There are scary sounds that you can download from Dog’s trust website to use for desensitisation. You can find that information here.

References:
Animates – 10 Tips for Safe & Happy Pets this Guy Fawkes – https://www.animates.co.nz/articles/guyfawkes
Dogs Trust- Help! My dog is scared of noises.https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/help-advice/advice-for-owners/fireworks

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