Starting the year with a bang? Top tips from vets for keeping pets safe during New Year fireworks

As many revelers see in the New Year with celebratory fireworks, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is advising owners on how to make their home a safe haven for frightened pets when midnight strikes.

Firework noise can reach up to 150 decibels and pets can be particularly sensitive to noise, meaning New Year’s Eve can be traumatic and distressing for them. Luckily there are a few simple things that can be done around the house to prevent unnecessary stress for dogs, cats and other pets.

Five top tips to help keep your pets calm during New Year’s Eve:

  • Prepare a den for your pet before New Year’s Eve and give them praise when they are relaxed there, so they come to view it as a safe retreat.
  • Use pheromone products next to the den and around the home. These are scents that we can’t smell but can help to reduce a pet’s stress.
  • Provide background noise and close curtains and windows on New Year’s Eve, when fireworks are expected.
  • Remain calm yourself. Never punish your pet – remember, if they toilet in the house it’s not their fault.
  • Move small pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, to a quiet place indoors when fireworks are expected, and provide lots of bedding to help them feel secure and mask the sounds. If you are having a party, remember to move them to a quiet area of the house.

British Veterinary Association President Malcolm Morley, said:

“The festive season is a busy, fun-filled time for many of us but these celebrations may be unsettling or even distressing for our pets. Many animals find the increase in visitors and noise, along with the disruption to their usual routines, quite challenging. When we add in the anxiety caused by firework noise, New Year’s Eve can become extremely frightening for our pets. We encourage all owners to make themselves aware of the specific symptoms of noise phobia in their animal and to take steps to minimize the impact of fireworks and other celebrations on their pets.”

Signs of distress can vary among different animals and some pets may display quite subtle signs, including restlessness, changes to facial expression, panting, drooling, reluctance to be on their own, toileting in the house or other changes in behaviour. However, in severe cases they may become very agitated or even destructive in their attempts to escape, with the most extreme cases requiring veterinary care. New figures from the Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey show that 7% of vets treated pets for firework injuries last year, with self-injury caused by firework-related anxiety the most common issue reported.

If your pet is severely distressed by fireworks, you may want to add a vet visit and plans for longer term treatment to your New Year to-do list. A phobia of fireworks can often be effectively treated with behaviour-modification techniques, administered with professional input, and owner commitment and patience.

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