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A new study by the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) has revealed that 22 per cent of UK dog owners have a four-legged friend who is afraid of fireworks, suggesting around 2.2 million dogs could suffer this Bonfire Night.
Leading vet charity, PDSA, is warning that both the loud and disruptive fireworks, the large number of potentially affected dogs, plus all the new owners who adopted a pet during lockdown, could leave the nation's pets suffering unnecessary distress and anxiety if owners don't act now.
PDSA Vet Lynne James said: "It's concerning that so many pets are suffering from severe stress and anxiety due to fireworks, and we fear this could be even worse this season."
The charity saw a 175 per cent increase in online searches for getting a dog in 2020, suggesting that the pandemic has resulted in a greater demand for pets while we spend more time at home. This means that there could be more new owners with little knowledge on how to prepare their pets for Bonfire Night.
Lynne said: "A pet's response to fireworks can range from mild to very extreme. Many shake and tremble, freeze with fear and are unable to settle, soil in the house or destroy furniture. They can even cause themselves physical injury if they panic, try to escape or run away. It can be incredibly distressing to witness.
"With fireworks so readily available these days and organised events likely to be cancelled due to local lockdown restrictions, there's a chance that more people will be doing their own displays this year. This could mean stressful weeks ahead for suffering pets and their owners."
PDSA's top tips include:
Start preparing early. If you know your pet has previously struggled with loud noises or fireworks, it's best to contact your vet for advice as soon as possible.
Get your pet microchipped and make sure your details are up-to-date, so if they do panic and run away you're more likely to be reunited.
Walk your dog earlier in the day and keep your cat at home before fireworks start.
Bring them indoors. Move rabbits and guinea pigs inside or cover their cage with blankets - especially if you know your neighbours are planning some fireworks.
Secure your home. Keep doors, windows, cat flaps and curtains closed and secure.
Make a cosy den for your pet. This can be somewhere they feel safe and can hide if they want to.
Soothing sounds. Play gentle music or 'white noise' to help to mask sounds.
Calming scents. Buy a plug-in pheromone diffuser which can help to keep pets relaxed.
Stay calm. Keeping your tone, mood and behaviour as normal as possible will help to reassure them. If you get anxious or start acting differently, this can strengthen the perception that there is something to be afraid of.
Provide comfort. If your pet usually seeks reassurance from you, then comfort them as you normally would. This is a short term fix though, so if your pet is very anxious it's important to find more long term solutions to help them cope. Seek the help of your vet and an accredited behaviourist.
Never punish your pet as this just adds to their anxiety and can make things worse.
Lynne continues: "Pets have extremely sensitive hearing, so what seems loud to us can be even worse for our pets. Plus they don't understand what's causing the loud bangs and flashes, adding to their stress. If your pet has a rough time this Bonfire Night then get help now to prepare them in time for New Year."
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