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Firework fear: Caithness pet owners urged to start preparing their furry friends for New Year’s Eve


By David G Scott

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As Caithness residents look forward to busy Hogmanay celebrations, many pet owners may find themselves more stressed than excited by the prospect.

Vet charity PDSA is urging owners to take preventive action – especially those who took on a pet during the pandemic – in a bid to reduce the extreme distress and suffering that fireworks can cause for many of our four-legged friends.

Dogs can find fireworks very stressful.
Dogs can find fireworks very stressful.

Our pets’ enhanced senses mean they can find the loud noises and bright flashes from fireworks overwhelming, which can lead to severe anxiety and trauma.

PDSA vet nurse Nina Downing said: “The firework season may be an especially difficult time for pups who were raised during lockdown – our 2021 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report shows that 15 per cent of UK dogs (139,000) obtained during the pandemic are showing signs of fear. One well recognised fear in dogs is noise phobias, and our previous research reports that 40 per cent of dogs are afraid of fireworks. Of those dogs owned before the pandemic, our research revealed 3 per cent of dogs (260,000) were reported as showing signs of fear, so it’s unknown what the impact will be come New Year.

PDSA PAW Report shows that 139,000 dogs obtained during the pandemic are showing signs of fear.
PDSA PAW Report shows that 139,000 dogs obtained during the pandemic are showing signs of fear.

“Thankfully, there are simple steps that can be followed to reduce distress in our pets – the sooner you can start preparing the better. While some pets who are very affected by fireworks can take months of training to make them more comfortable with the bangs and flashes, there are still plenty of things you can do now to help. PDSA has produced a free guide to help owners lessen the impact of this stressful period.”

PDSA’s top tips on tackling fireworks phobias include:

1. Start early

The earlier you can start your pre-fireworks prep, the better. Play firework noises quietly throughout the house in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, and pair these with their favourite treat. If they show any signs of stress, stop the noises, and try again at a lower volume when they are not reacting. Continue to do this all year round, so your pet builds up positive associations with these sounds.

PDSA vets encourage new owners to prepare their pet to prevent firework phobias.
PDSA vets encourage new owners to prepare their pet to prevent firework phobias.

2. Secure your garden

Secure your home and garden in advance, as fearful furry friends may panic and scarper. Ensure any escape routes – such as holes in fences – are inaccessible. Keep doors, windows and cat flaps closed to keep everyone safe, and pull the curtains to help muffle the sounds as well as block the flashes. Don’t forget to provide a litter tray for your cat if they usually toilet outside.

3. Set up a hideaway

Create a den in a quiet room or cupboard, which your pet can use as a safe space to hide in. It’s important that your pet already views this space as a safe place that they can escape to. Make it extra cosy with blankets and their favourite toys and treats, and add pillows or cushions to help absorb the loud noises – you can also do the same to hutches for smaller four-legged friends, who may also appreciate some extra bedding to hide away in.

A fireworks den can help your pet to feel safe and secure.
A fireworks den can help your pet to feel safe and secure.

4. Create calm vibes

Using pheromone products can help anxious pets, as the scents they release provide a calming effect to relax a stressed pooch or puss. You can even prepare a calming playlist, as music with a repetitive beat might help to disguise the loud bangs from fireworks and may keep your furry friend relaxed.

Vet charity PDSA is urging owners to take preventive action ahead of Hogmanay – especially those who took on a pet during the pandemic. Picture by Julian Brown
Vet charity PDSA is urging owners to take preventive action ahead of Hogmanay – especially those who took on a pet during the pandemic. Picture by Julian Brown

5. Speak to your vet

If you’re concerned your pet has a severe phobia of fireworks, it’s best to speak to an expert. Your vet can advise you on measures to improve the phobia, such as professional behaviour therapy or prescribe medications to help.

For more information on how to prepare your pet for New Year's Eve and to download PDSA’s free Firework Guide, please visit www.pdsa.org.uk/fireworks2021


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