Bonfire night might be the night that we're supposed to remember, remember but for many pet owners, it is a night they would rather forget.

If you're one of those pet owners that are dreading the loud noises that come hand in hand with November 5, we might have some answers for you.

Forbes Advisor, a financial guidance and price comparison platform, has paired up with an animal behaviourist, Dr Tammie King to help advise owners about the best ways to take care of their pets over the fireworks weekend

The partnership has teamed up to answer some of the most searched questions to shed some much-needed light on how to protect your pooch's wellbeing this Guy Fawkes.

Isle of Wight County Press: Fireworks exploding against the night sky. Credit: CanvaFireworks exploding against the night sky. Credit: Canva

Simon Hayes, vet and primary care medical director of Linnaeus veterinary practices, said: “This is the most challenging time of year for pet owners, as there are so many potential triggers of stress in animals coming up over the next few months.

“There are the bangs of fireworks, the noisy and hectic festive season, including unfamiliar faces and smells, all of which can cause stress in our pets.

"And, while some owners will seek guidance and advice, we also know there are many others pets who will just suffer through this period.

“Whether it’s trick-or-treaters knocking on doors, Bonfire Night revellers letting off fireworks, or further seasonal celebrations up until Christmas and the New Year, autumn and winter can be an anxious time of year for many pets, and not just dogs.”

Why are dogs scared of fireworks?

There are a few very clear reasons why dogs tend to be scared of fireworks.

For one thing, they hear at four times the distance of humans as well as at a much higher frequency.

Dr Tammie King, Mars Petcare animal behaviourist, explains: “In addition to more sensitive hearing compared to humans, they will not be able to recognise the source of the sound, which can result in fear and anxiety.

“Some pets may also have negative associations with loud noises or have had a bad experience in the past and have since developed a generalised fear of other loud noises.

"On the flipside, it could be that they’ve had limited exposure to loud noises, while others have a genetic predisposition for high sensitivity.”

While some breeds have a higher disposition to noise phobias, not all dogs are affected by fireworks.

Dr King added: “It is important to point out that not all pets are frightened by loud noises. Behaviour is influenced by genetics, past experiences, and the current environment/situation.

"For example, herding dog breeds tend to be over-represented in my experience."

Is fireworks anxiety unique to dogs or can cats be affected?

The short answer is no - fireworks anxiety can affect both cats and dogs.

But how cats exhibit these anxiety symptoms is often different to their canine counterparts.

Dogs tend to show their distress in a much more visible way, an owner might not realise that realise the extent of the anxiety their cat is experiencing.

For example, cats by nature tend to hide when they are stressed.

We have also put together a guide that will help you best support your feline friend this Bonfire night for pet owners that need it.

Dog fireworks anxiety symptoms

If your dog is experiencing fireworks anxiety, you may see them exhibiting one or more of these symptoms over the next week in response to the fireworks:

  • Brow furrowed or ears back
  • Cowering
  • Excessive alertness or hypervigilance
  • Excessive clinginess
  • Hiding
  • Lip licking
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Panting
  • Refusing to eat
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Whining or barking

What helps dogs with fireworks anxiety?

A survey by the British Veterinary Association found that one in 14 vets across the country reported seeing animals with firework-related injuries last year. 

The most reported cases were self-injuries caused by fireworks-related anxiety which includes the likes of tooth-related injuries from dogs chewing furniture.

The good news is, there is plenty that you can do to help your four-legged friend out.

Firstly, Dr King recommends thinking about the long term solution rather than just a quick fix when it comes to fireworks.

Dr King explained: “The goal is to expose them to very low levels of the stimulus, so they notice it but don’t react adversely while pairing it with something pleasurable like a fun game or food.

"Then over time, gradually increase the intensity of the stimulus so it no longer elicits a fearful response.

“It is important that this is tightly controlled to ensure the pet doesn’t exceed the threshold at which they start to exhibit behaviour related to fear and anxiety. Also that it is carried out at a time when there are no fireworks or other loud noises occurring.

“If done correctly, this can improve the welfare of pets who previously have exhibited fear or anxiety to loud noises.

“Essentially, the programme pairs something the pet considers positive with the fear-eliciting stimulus, such as a sound recording of fireworks exploding.

 

 

How to look after your dog on Bonfire night

Here are the top ten tips that will help be prepared on November 5 and prioritise your pets' wellbeing:

  1. Create a safe place for the dog- this could be a crate, den or even just under a table where they can hide and escape the noise. As an owner, you should try and condition them to the safe area before so that they are used to unpredictable noises that come from fireworks or thunderstorms. However, you should not lock them in and instead give them the choice. 
  2. Put big blankets over the hiding area - whatever you have used to make a safe space for your dog - be it a crate or a kitchen table - you can use a blanket to muffle the outside noise and give them some comfort.
  3. Close the curtains - by closing the curtains, you can help reduce noise and prevent visual cues caused by the fireworks
  4. Play music or TV at a semi-loud level - this is another simple way to help muffle noise that is disrupting your pooch from outside
  5. Distract with a long-lasting treat - try distracting your dog with something far more appealing. You can provide them with a long-lasting chew or food-dispensing puzzle toy that they can crack for treats. In other words, keep them busy on something tasty!
  6. Comfort your dog - Give them cuddles and let your pooch know that you're there for them. It is a common myth that comforting your dog reinforces their fear and makes them worse. It's not true, they are just like children and need your love when they are scared.
  7.  Happy owner = Happy dog - We all know that dogs are sensitive and pick up on what's going on around them. If you're stressed and worked up, your four-legged friend will get even more wound up too. Do what you can to remain calm and lead your pack by example.
  8. Appeasing pheromones - visit your vet or an expert from a pet store so that you can discuss what your options are.
  9. Body wraps - If you want to be extra prepared, get yourself a body wrap either online or from a pet store. You make them work by applying gentle pressure evenly to your pet's body- quite like swaddling a baby – which can help keep your furry friend calm.
  10. Medication - In extreme cases, vets will prescribe anxiolytic medication if they think it may be beneficial. However, Dr King advises against acepromazine (ACP) which is a drug that immobilises the dog to a degree but they are still aware of surroundings.