How to calm your dog down or comfort a cat on Bonfire Night

Remember, remember your pets this November

Fireworks can be magical for both adults and children alike. But when it comes to our pets, it’s often different story. Many animals can become stressed out and frightened by the bangs and flashes caused by fireworks. They perceive them as a real threat, triggering their ‘flight’ response – and resulting in panicked pooches and crazy kitties across the country.

They’ll love you for it! 7 ways to make your home more dog-friendly

So to make sure your pet stays safe this bonfire night, we’ve asked some pet experts for their top tips on how to calm your dog down or comfort a cat on Bonfire Night.

1. Be prepared

Image credit: Dan Duchars

As with any big occasion, preparation is key. Check local groups and media for details of upcoming events such as fireworks displays in your area and ask your neighbours if they are planning to host any bonfire parties so you can keep your pet indoors. Giving your animal as much exercise as possible earlier in the day will burn their energy and help to keep your pet calm during the evening’s celebrations.

Take your dog for a walk before it gets dark and the fireworks start. Get cats indoors and try to protect outdoor animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs by covering sheds and hutches with old carpets or tarpaulins to muffle light and sound.

Closing the curtains and playing music or putting the TV on can help to mask sounds once indoors. Or try and distract your pet by playing games with them or teaching them a new trick using toys or treats.

2. Keep a close eye on them

Image credit: Polly Eltes

While some pets may seem to be unaffected by a firework display, they may be frozen with fear, so it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on them and monitor their behaviour. Don’t tell them off or try to force them to confront their fears as this will only increase their stress or anxiety

3. Give them a cuddle

Be sure to show your pet plenty of love, attention and companionship throughout the day and evening .’Don’t be afraid to comfort your pet if they are scared,’ advises Jenny Philp, managing director and senior practicing vet at Vet’s Kitchen.

‘Previous training advice was to ignore fearful behaviour in case this reinforced the fear, but this is now considered to be outdated advice.’

4. Create a safe space

Image credit: Polly Eltes

Both cats and dogs love having their own safe space and that can be especially true when loud fireworks are going off. If using a crate, add in some warm and cozy blankets and some of their favourite toys and treats. Drape a sheet over the top, which will muffle any noise and light.

4. Try CBD oil

Image credit: Polly Eltes

Dr Robert Silver, vet with over 30 years’ experience and author of the book Medical Marijuana and Your Pet, believes the extract can help reduce pets’ anxiety around stressful occasions like Bonfire Night: ‘A CBD supplement can curb these emotions in your dog and protect the animal against unnecessary stress.’

We know what you’re thinking – but you can ‘relax, man’! Although CBD oil is made from hemp, it doesn’t contain any of the psychoactive properties found in other cannabis compounds. So no, your pet won’t get ‘high’.

Endoca is an expert in CBD oil, with 30ml costing around EUR26

5. Use a natural remedy

Image credit: Polly Eltes

There are lots of natural remedies for anxiety that could help to give your pet pooch some relief on fireworks night. Favourites include chamomile and lemon balm.

If you’re looking to give your cat stress relief, try catnip. It’s made from a natural perennial herb from the mint family, called labiatae, and it’s relatively easy to grow. Give catnip to your cat 15 minutes prior to a stressful event – after a bit of excitement, they’ll settle down into a period of extended calm.

6. Explore sound therapy

Image credit: Polly Eltes

Sound therapy involves playing the sounds of fireworks, thunder or other noises your pets could become scared of, and hopefully training them out of their fear. The idea is to play them quietly at first and for short periods of time, whilst ensuring they feel safe and reassured.

It’s best to play the sounds in combination with positive things such as treats and toys, before increasing the volume and length of time played gradually.

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‘To be at its most beneficial, it is worth beginning with sound therapy a couple of months before the event. Use it as a way of desensitising your pet to different noises,’ advises Jenny Philp. ‘So whilst it may be a little late for 5thNovember, this could be a great way of managing your pets’ anxiety ahead of New Year’s Eve.’

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