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Tilly's Story

Keeping your pets safe during the Halloween & Fireworks season 

“Tilly” was our beautiful, loving, unforgettable Collie-cross, she passed in 2018. Tilly lived a long and very happy life. She was such a good dog and an amazing family pet, and we have lots of happy memories of her. She was so stoic, however, there was a couple of things that Tilly could not cope with, and this unfortunately happened around the same time every single year. She became upset and anxious at the strangely dressed guisers visiting us on Halloween night, and she absolutely hated fireworks. 

Tilly enjoying a day at the beach

Halloween, Bonfire night and fireworks can all be potentially scary times for many pets. Fireworks are enjoyed by people, and they can provide 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 make these well-established, human celebratory events less frightening for your beloved pets. 

Keep your pets safe, settled, and secure. 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".  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 seasons exercise your dog during daylight hours and keep him safe close to you on a secure lead when you walk him out in the dark. Sensibly, always keep your pets indoors when fireworks are likely to be set off, for example on planned, timed firework events on "Bonfire Night “or that weekend. 

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, act normally and encourage gentle indoor play, or offer a favourite treat 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 terrified.  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 Halloween night, so do be vigilant and ensure that your pets are safely kept in a closed-off, safe room in a quieter, secure area of the house. Make sure your cat or dog is always kept 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. She 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 a quiet, safe den for your dog. 

Remember to identify your pets, do make sure that your pets are Microchipped, in case they do run off, and ensure that their contact details are all correct and up to date. 

A way of effectively desensitising your dog to noise is to use one of the widely available "Noise and Sounds" CD desensitising materials available. Also, plug-in pheromone diffusers can 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. 

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 afraid. 

If you have caged pets that live outside, partly cover their cages with a heavy blanket to shield them from flashing lights and loud noise 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. 

Some pets do certainly need some additional help and assistance to alleviate their distress and fear during the fireworks season. There are some natural nutraceutical treatments which can be added to food that can assist in alleviating stress. So, do contact your Vet for any professional advice here. 

I often think of our lovely "Tilly" at this time of year. She was never very comfortable with Halloween and Bonfire night. However, over her fifteen plus years, she did get used to her safe, cosy "den" during this time, and she gradually became less worried and anxious during this noisy, scary season.
 

Alison Laurie-Chalmers, 

Senior Consultant, 

Crown Vets

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