Fireworks season is upon us, and for pet owners, this can be a stressful time of year. However, there are ways to ease into the end of the year, and to make sure that your pet doesn’t bear the brunt of the silly season, thanks to advice from Hill’s Pet Nutrition advisor Dr Guy Fyvie.
Fyvie says that it is vital to know what you can do to relieve any stress your pets may feel as a result of fireworks and raucous parties, especially if you have an anxious pet.
Because our pets’ hearing is sharper and more sensitive than our own, they can hear noises from much further away. So, even if there is a party a few kilometres from your home, it may still be distressing to your pet, says Fyvie.
He recommends that pet parents look out for the following signs of anxious behaviour:
- Hiding or cowering away, or attempting to escape
- Bowel and bladder accidents
- Excessive panting
- Restless behaviour
- Shaking and yawning
- Excessive licking or chewing
- Barking and howling more than usual
To counter these negative behaviour as a result of stress, Fyvie says there are simple things you can do around the house to make your pet feel more at home:
- Keep familiar sounds playing in the house, such as leaving the TV on or playing background music. This makes your pet feel more at ease because it will seem like a normal day.
- Close the curtains to conceal the flash of fireworks, and keep doors and windows closed to minimise the sound.
- Create a cosy, small space in the house for your dog or cat to retreat to if they feel anxious. Make sure to put their favourite blankies, toys, and treats in this space.
- Try to keep your outdoor cats inside. You can do this by placing a litter tray inside, and closing all doors and windows, as well as the cat flap, so that they are unable to escape.
- Try to stay home with your pets. If this is not possible, ensure that someone they trust and are familiar with looks after them. Consistency is key. However, if this too is not possible, consider calling pet-sitting agencies ahead of time to arrange a pet sitter for the evening.
- Ask your vet about specially formulated food to help alleviate stress. They may also recommend medications to calm your pets down in extreme cases, but make sure that your furbaby is not allergic to anything.
- If you are planning to transition your pet to stress-reducing food, Fyvie recommends that you do this four weeks beforehand. Pet parents with nervous animals may consider switching to this food permanently.
For pet parents who’d like to find out if their dogs or cats are anxious, take the Hill’s pet stress test here.
The use of fireworks is regulated by South African bylaws under the Explosives Act of 1956. This states that no fireworks may be set off within 200m of any hospital, clinic, petrol station, old-age or using home, or animal welfare organisation, and that using fireworks to frighten pets is illegal.
“However, even if the fireworks display is a fair distance from your home, dogs and cats’ hearing is far sharper and much more sensitive than ours, and the noise could still trigger an anxious reaction,” added Fyvie.