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Noise and Fireworks Phobias

19th Oct 2021

How do I know if my pet suffers from a noise phobia?

Noise phobias are a common problem in domestic pets, with fireworks being the number one reported specific noise phobia in the UK. If your pet is affected you may notice one or more of these signs:

  • Cowering or hiding
  • Trying to run away or escape
  • Destructive behaviours
  • Inappropriate soiling in the house
  • Restlessness, panting or pacing
  • Overgrooming (especially cats)
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Excessive vocalisation
  • Seeking to be close to you at all times

These experiences can be very distressing for pet and owner, but there are a number of ways to manage and treat the situation.

 

What can I do to help manage these behaviours for my pet at home?

It is ideal to start to provide steps to manage fireworks phobias a few weeks before the event so the pet can acclimatise to any changes.

Make a safe space for your pet

For dogs and cats - providing a safe den in the household can provide a place they feel less stressed. This should ideally be a place in the house they feel most relaxed, rather than somewhere to run in fear. Make it a positive area by providing blankets for comfort and toys or treats as positive reinforcement. Cats like to be up high so consider providing this space somewhere off the ground.

For small furries like rabbit or guinea pigs - if they live outside consider bringing them in for the night or covering one side of their hutch with a blanket for additional sound proofing. Give them plenty of bedding so they can burrow and feel secure.

If you have multiple pets, setting up multiple hide outs may be wise so they can all have a separate safe space if they would prefer.

Distract your pet from noises outside

If your pet won’t mind, consider playing some low level music or have the TV on so that outside noises aren’t so prominent. If they would be receptive to it, consider playing games with them and giving treats to distract them from the noises outside - so giving them a more positive thing to focus on.

Consider your own behaviour

Try and appear jolly and relaxed in front of your pet during such a period, so they feed off this. Avoid punishing them for fearful behaviours, even if destructive, as this reinforces the negative experience and can increase their anxiety next time. On the flip side, try not to respond excessively or pander to them when they show fearful behaviours as this can also reinforce this as good behaviour when attention seeking.

Consider using supplements or pheromone treatments

There are a number of nutraceutical products or special diets available, aimed at stress relief, that have calming effects for both dogs and cats. Similarly, pheromone products that come in sprays or household diffusers (such as; Feliway for cats, or Adaptil for dogs) can reduce signs of stress and anxiety. If you would like to know more, these products can be discussed with a vet or a nurse at the practice.

 

What other things should I consider on firework night?

  • Walk your dog earlier, preferably in daylight to avoid times when fireworks will be going off
  • Consider keeping cats indoors if they will tolerate this
  • Draw the curtains or blackout windows to reduce visibility of flashes
  • If your pet gets really nervous consider staying in with them so they have a familiar face around
  • Check that your cat or dog’s microchip details are up to date in case they escape whilst frightened

 

What longer term solutions could I try?

Desensitisation therapies have been shown to significantly reduce noise phobias in dogs. This consists of playing sounds like fireworks at a very low level to get your dog accustomed to them. You can feed them or play with them at the same time to associate positive experiences with the noises. As they get more comfortable the volume of the recording can be gradually increased until they are no longer as worried about them.

An example of one of these resources can be found here: Sound Therapy & Firework Training for Dogs | Dogs Trust

 

What if these actions don’t work?

If your pets still suffers from severe symptoms of anxiety or stress due to fireworks, prescription medication may be useful. If you think your pet would benefit from this we would advise an appointment with one of our vets to discuss the best solution for them.

Give us a call on 01858 462839 if you would like to book an appointment.


Advice for pet owners during the fireworks season Infographic ¿ RSPCA