To dogs, cats, and other animals, New Year’s Eve can seem more like World War III than a joyous celebration. The numerous fireworks displays that set the sky alight can make this night terrifying and even dangerous for animals. Many companion animals are afraid of thunderstorms, and fireworks are similar, with their loud bangs and bright flashes of light.
Dogs and cats left outside or home alone may go to extreme lengths to escape the explosions. Some end up hit by cars or killed in other ways as they flee. They may also injure themselves or others in their panic and terror—particularly if they are tied up.
Wild animals are also vulnerable during fireworks displays, not only because of the high levels of stress that such displays may cause but also because fireworks that explode near them may injure or kill them. Those who are rearing their young may abandon them to starve to death in order to flee for their own lives.
How to Help Companion Animals Stay Safe During Fireworks
Here are a few precautions that you can take to ensure the comfort and safety of your animal companions during the New Year’s Eve fireworks displays:
- Take your dog out for exercise before the fireworks start and feed them when you return home. A tired and well-fed dog may be less anxious.
- Never leave animals tethered or chained outside, as they can hang themselves if they leap over a fence while trying to run from the noise.
- Keep cats and dogs indoors during the celebrations and, if possible, stay with them – never take them with you to watch fireworks displays!
- Make sure that your companion animal is microchipped wearing a collar with an up-to-date identification tag, just in case.
- To muffle the disturbing sounds, close your windows, draw the curtains, and shut the blinds. Turn on the television or radio.
- Make sure your dog or cat has a safe place to hide if they get scared (under the bed is fine!)
- As long as your companion animals are safe, try not to fuss over them too much, as this will only make the situation seem like a bigger deal and encourage their behaviour. Be upbeat and cheerful to show them that all is well. Try to provide distractions, such as toys, games, activities, and yummy treats so that they can relate the scary noises to something positive. Any never punish animals for being afraid, as that will backfire and only make them more fearful.
- Small animals such as birds and mice get scared, too, and will benefit from having a lightweight cover draped over their living space to minimize the noise of the fireworks (but make sure they don’t overheat). Being in the dark will help to keep them calm as well.
- For noise sensitive dogs and cats, try Thundershirts or calming pheromone sprays.
- Keep an eye out for lost animal companions and look after them until their guardians can be located.
If your furry friend really struggles to stay calm during fireworks and thunderstorms, ask your vet about treatment options that might be suitable.
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