Oxfordshire Branch

Pets and fireworks

Many animals find fireworks scary. Owners will often see their pets struggling, either frozen with fear or, in the most dangerous circumstances - bolting, rearing up or charging fences.

Last year alone, we received 11,785 responses to our impact reporting survey, each detailing the fear responses demonstrated by animals and the experiences of their owners.

In situations like these, it's hard to know how to react or what to do. Especially if you're a new pet parent, it may not be something you've even considered in advance of firework season.

However, if you're one of the 69% of UK adults taking measures to help relax or prepare your pets, horses and livestock for firework season, there are some helpful hints and tips that'll help.

How to calm dogs during fireworks

Before the firework season begins

Planning ahead can help dogs cope with the fireworks season. Before the fireworks season starts, provide your dog with a doggy safe haven. This should be a quiet area, so choose one of the quietest rooms in your home - a place where they feel in control. Don't interfere with your dog when they're in that area.

Train your dog to associate the area with positive experiences, e.g. by leaving their favourite toys there, but not imposing yourself at any time. Use a variety of chew toys, such as stuffed Kongs and chews. Swap them regularly, putting them away when not in use so that your dog doesn't become bored with them.

With time, dogs can learn that this place is safe and enjoyable. When fireworks go off, they may choose to go there because they know, in that place, they are safe. It's important that your dog has access to this doggy safe haven at all times - even when you're not at home.

When the fireworks start

  • Walk your dog during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off.
  • Move your dog to the safe haven each evening before the fireworks begin. Provide toys and other things that they enjoy in the safe haven.
  • Make sure there are things for you to do too, so your dog isn't left alone.
  • Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks. Blackout your doggy safe haven, so they can't see any flashes outside.
  • Put on some music or TV to mask the firework sounds.
  • Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don't force them to play.

You could also talk to your vet about pheromone diffusers. These disperse calming chemicals into the room and may be a good option for your dog. In some cases, your vet may even prescribe medication.

In preparation for next year's firework season, your dog needs to learn to be less afraid of loud noises. This will be less stressful for you and your dog. This is possible with behavioural therapy. Sound Therapy 4 Pets is a therapy pack available to teach your dogs to be less scared of loud noises.

Watch our Advice on Pets and Fireworks video for tips on keeping your pets safe this firework season.

How to help cats who are afraid of fireworks

  • Provide hiding places in your home .e.g. under furniture or a quiet corner.
  • Don't stress your cat by trying to tempt them out. Leave them until they're ready.
  • Keeping them in to avoid them becoming stressed.
  • Microchip your cats in case they're startled and escape outside.

How to help small animals during fireworks

  • Partly cover outside cages and pens with blankets so it's soundproofed and hidden, leaving an area for animals to look out.
  • Provide bedding for small animals to burrow in.
  • Consider bringing them indoors - this will need to be done gradually, so plan ahead.

Keeping horses safe during fireworks

It's not just the animals in your home that can be scared of fireworks - horses can be too. If you're a horse owner:

  • Know in advance - check to see if there are going to be any firework displays in your area.
  • Talk to the organisers - where possible, explain there are horses nearby and ask them to set off their fireworks in the opposite direction.
  • Get advice from the British Horse Society (BHS) - for top tips on keeping your horse safe and secure during the firework season

How to treat firework phobia

Firework phobia is a treatable condition and animals don't have to suffer every year. Seek advice from your vet who will, if necessary, be able to refer you to a professional clinical animal behaviourist. Never punish your pets when they're scared, as this will only make things worse in the long run. 

Acknowledgement for this information is made to Prof Daniel Mills. Read more about our expert contributors.

How you can help reduce the impact of fireworks on animals

If you want to enjoy fireworks, you can make them less frightening for animals in the following ways:

  • Going to an organised event will reduce the number of fireworks disturbing animals.
  • Please only let fireworks off on or around traditional celebration dates (Diwali, Bonfire Night, New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year). Most owners will already know to expect fireworks on these dates and should have prepared accordingly to help their animals cope. Look for low-noise fireworks, and let your neighbours know well in advance so animals including horses and livestock, can be prepared.
  • Never set off fireworks near livestock, as frightened animals - especially horses - can injure themselves when frightened.
  • Remember, fireworks can also disturb wildlife so steer clear of known habitats like lakes with waterfowl and trees with roosting birds.
  • Check bonfires for wildlife before lighting as animals like hedgehogs may be hibernating.

Do you think it's #BangOutOfOrder?

We want to change firework regulations to make them safer for animals. Join our fireworks campaign.