Dogs and fireworks
There is no escaping fireworks at certain times of year. They are an integral part of Bonfire Night and New Years Eve, and are becoming increasingly popular at smaller celebrations like birthdays.
But while we might enjoy watching the colours fill the night sky, our dogs are often left terrified by the seemingly never-ending booms and flashes. Many dog owners know that this can be a very stressful time for their pets and their priority is keeping them calm and safe.
Why are dogs scared of fireworks?
Dogs and fireworks generally don’t mix. While some don’t appear to be fazed by fireworks, it’s natural for dogs to be afraid of the loud bangs. After all, we humans know where these booming, unpredictable sounds are coming from but our four-legged friends don’t understand. Fear and anxiety are natural reactions to something that could be seen as a threat to their survival.
Why are dogs and fireworks such a dangerous combination?
Some dogs get so scared of fireworks they run off, and every year our emergency vets see hundreds of pets who have been involved in road traffic accidents after being spooked by loud bangs. Thousands more need medication for stress and dog anxiety attacks as a result of fireworks.
If your dog becomes afraid during fireworks and ends up hurting themselves, make sure to contact your vet immediately. If it is out-of-hours and your vet is closed, find your nearest Vets Now pet emergency clinic.
How do I know if my dog is scared of fireworks?
Signs that your dog is scared of fireworks can include shaking, pacing up and down or panting heavily. They may also bark more than normal, tremble, hide or drool. Other signs of distress include destructiveness and soiling unexpectedly.
However, keep in mind that even if your dog isn’t shaking or whimpering, this doesn’t mean they aren’t distressed, they may express their anxiety in a different way.
Why do dogs bark at fireworks?
Barking at fireworks might seem like a strange reaction for your dog to have but barking is a natural expression of fear or anxiety.
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How can I help prepare my dog for fireworks?
Before the fireworks begin, you should:
- Take your dog for his usual walk before the fireworks are set off and ensure he’s kept on a lead at all times as the noise of fireworks may cause him to bolt
- Feed him a good meal well before the fireworks are due to start
- Ensure your pet is wearing ID so that if he does run away there’s a greater chance of him being returned to you
- Ensure your dog is microchipped and wears a collar and tag — these are both legal requirements
- Get your dog used to loud noises. You can do this using sound therapy, which gradually exposes your dog to noises over time. There are many products available, including free sound-based treatment programmes from Dog’s Trust.
DON’TS when dealing with fireworks and dogs
- Regardless of your dog’s reaction to fireworks, you should NEVER do any of the following:
- Tie your dog up outside if fireworks are being set off
- Let them off the lead near a fireworks display
- Leave your dog alone if he’s suffering from firework anxiety — just like us, our pets seek comfort in numbers, so your presence will help reassure him
- Shout at your dog if he’s destructive as a result of distress — this will only upset him more
My dog is terrified of fireworks, what can I do?
If you’re really concerned about your dog’s fear of fireworks, it’s worth chatting with your vet to see what options are available.
You may also want to rule out other conditions that might be causing their behaviour, such as poisoning, brain or thyroid disease.
Contact your vet or for emergency out-of-hours treatment, find your nearest Vets Now.
What can I give my dog for fireworks anxiety?
There are medications that your vet can give to dogs to help with anxiety, although these are generally only prescribed as a last resort. Speak to your vet in advance and they will be able to discuss the best options for your pet.
There are also over-the-counter products, such as calming collars and plugins, which claim to send calming messages to help your dog feel calm during periods of high stress or anxiety.
Studies have shown that “thundershirts”, or pressure vests, may have a calming effect by providing consistent pressure on your dog’s core.
Can I take my dog to a fireworks display?
You should never take your dog to a fireworks display or walk your dog while fireworks are being set off. Just because a dog isn’t showing signs of firework anxiety doesn’t mean they aren’t quietly terrified of the loud, unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situation they have been put in.
The law and fireworks
It’s illegal to buy “adult” fireworks if you’re under 18, set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except on bonfire night, when the cut off is midnight, and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am. It’s also against the law to set off or throw fireworks, including sparklers, in the street or other public places.
When are fireworks on sale?
You can only buy fireworks, including sparklers, from registered sellers for private use between October 15 and November 10, December 26 and 31, and three days before Diwali and Chinese New Year.
At all other times, you can only buy fireworks from licensed shops. Check with your council to find out about any local rules for setting off fireworks and remember, you can be fined up to £5,000 and imprisoned for up to six months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You could also get an on-the-spot fine of £90.