Over 2 million UK dogs suffer firework terror

27 October 2020

PDSA vets encourage new owners to prepare their pet to prevent firework phobias

Exclusive findings from the latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report have revealed that 22% 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,

PDSA is warning that this coupled with the new owners taking on a pet during lockdown, could leave the nation’s pets suffering unnecessary distress and anxiety if owners don’t act now.

PDSA has a free downloadable Fireworks guide available to help owners

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.

“PDSA saw a 175% 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 there could be more new owners with little knowledge on the preparation that’s needed in the lead-up to fireworks season.

“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.”

The latest PAW report also found three in five (61%) vets have seen an increase in the number of pets with phobias including fireworks in the last two years*, despite there being lots of ways to ease their distress.

Lynne adds: “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.

“While we can’t prevent fireworks from happening, owners can take simple and easy steps to reduce their pets’ anxiety. Puppy and kitten owners can prevent the phobia forming in the first place by including fireworks noises as part of their desensitisation and socialisation regime. Getting them used to fireworks noises when young can stop these fears from taking hold in later life so it’s important all pet owners know what to do to help prevent needless suffering.”

To help owners get fireworks ready, PDSA is offering owners a free downloadable guide with steps owners can take to prepare their pets over the coming weeks.

Our 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 with 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.”

*PDSA Pet Wellbeing Report (PAW) 2020
** PDSA analysis of Google search results showing an increase of 175% in internet searches on ‘getting a dog’ in April 2020 compared to the average for the preceding year.

Free fireworks guide

PDSA is offering owners a free downloadable guide with steps owners can take to prepare their pets over the coming weeks.