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Keeping Pets Safe on Halloween

& firework season

With Halloween and the Firework, Bonfire, season almost upon us, please do "remember remember" that our beloved pets can become upset and extremely anxious at strangely dressed guisers visiting on Halloween night, and also that most pets generally do not like fireworks, particularly if they have noise phobias. 

Halloween, Bonfire night and fireworks can all be potentially extremely scary times for many pets who have this time inflicted upon them each year. Fireworks are enjoyed by people, and can be an exhilarating experience, however, they can be a real source of intense fear and distress for many animals. Around 40% of owners of cats and dogs report that their pet is afraid of fireworks. 

Our pets' senses are much more sensitive than ours, so loud bangs, high pitched sounds and unexpected flashes of light can be extremely scary for our four-pawed friends. 

Luckily, with the right care, you can keep your pet calm and help them cope. Follow these tips to hopefully make these well-established, human celebratory events less frightening for your pets.  

Keep your pets safe, settled, and secure on an around Halloween and Bonfire night. Make sure that your dog or cat always has somewhere to hide safely if he or she wants to, and make sure that they can have easy access to this little "hide", their safe place, at all times. For example, use a quiet area in the house under a table with a blanket cover, or in the base of an open cupboard or simply a large cardboard box hidden under a thick blanket on the floor. Provide a comfy bed in this area and before the firework season encourage your pet to use this safe area by leaving treats and toys in the "hide" but do not impose yourself here at any time, it should be a place where your pet feels that they are in control and feel safe. Cats may prefer to hide in a cardboard box, in a cat basket with the door left off or open and covered with a blanket or some cats prefer to be up on an elevated platform so put a blanket up on this elevated area, so that they can hide underneath this if they prefer. 

During the fireworks season exercise your dog during daylight hours and keep him safe and close to you on a secure lead when you walk him out in the dark. Sensibly, always keep all your pets indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off, for example on planned, timed firework events on Bonfire Night. At nightfall close all windows and curtains to "black out" the indoor area to avoid flashing lights from fireworks and put on some easy listening music with a steady, even, rhythmic beat to mask and hopefully muffle the sounds of the noisy fireworks outside. Let your pet settle down themselves and do not overly fuss over them, leave them alone to seek out their safe place, unless you think they may harm themselves. Try to ignore the firework noises yourself, and act normally and encourage gentle indoor play, or offer a treat or new toy if your pet is interested.  

If you get dressed up for Halloween guising, or any planned, or unplanned, guising guests arrive at your home dressed in unusual, scary "spirit of the dead" attire. Your pets, understandably, may be easily petrified.  Again, provide a quiet room for your pets with their haven "hide" in that room, and discourage any Halloween guisers from going into that area and scaring your pets. Your front door may be open a lot during the Halloween night, so do be vigilant and ensure that your pets are kept safely in a closed-off room in a quieter area of the house. Make sure your cat or dog is always kept indoors in a safe, secure environment and cannot escape to the outdoors if there is a sudden noise or flashing lights or they are scared by guising strangers. Do not be tempted to let your cat out, as this will only cause it to be more stressed. Cats may run off in fear, and then there is a real risk of injury from traffic if they run off in this frame of mind. Provide a safe quiet haven for your cat with a litter tray and food and water bowls nearby, and also a quiet, safe “den” for your dog.  

Also, remember to identify your pets in case they do run off, do make sure that your pets are Microchipped, and ensure that all the relevant contact details are all up to date.  

A way of effectively desensitising your dog to noise is to use one of the widely available "Noise and Sounds" , Sounds Scary" CD, which is a desensitising sound material available to work with ahead of fireworks season. Also, the plug-in calming pet pheromone diffusers do assist. These diffusers disperse a safe, calming, pheromone chemical into the air in any room they are used in, and they do help to calm pets down. Plug them in around the home and also near your pet's safe "den".  

If your dog has a "doggy friend" that isn't scared of fireworks and they get on well together, it can sometimes help to bring his friend along for a "sleep over" evening to help your dog to realise that there is no need to be so worried and afraid.  

If you have caged pets that live outside, do partly cover their cages with a heavy blanket to shield them from any flashing lights and loud noises and turn the cages away from any open ground. Also provide plenty of extra bedding and hay so that your caged pets can bury underneath this to hide safely.  

Some pets do certainly need some additional help and assistance to alleviate their distress and fear during the fireworks season. You may also wish to contact a pet behaviouralist for advice. Also, there are some natural, nutraceutical, calming treatments which can be added to their food that can assist in alleviating stress. 

In some severe cases, prescription medications may be required. Contact your Vet practice for professional advice and assistance here.  

Hopefully using this advice and by working with your pets, they may gradually become less worried and anxious during this noisy and potentially scary season. 

Alison Laurie-Chalmers,  

Senior Consultant,  

Crown Vets 

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