Amidst uncertain times, we still rallied to welcome 2022 with hope, glee, and a whole lot of fireworks. While we all love a good display of holiday fireworks, animals and fireworks don’t mix, and the fiery shows with their loud bangs, bright lights, and general ferocity can be a huge shock to the furry members of our families.
It is widely understood that animals are more sensitive to lights, noises, and smells than humans, and that disruptive fireworks can cause a great deal of stress to your pets which may lead to violent shaking, trembling, excessive drooling, barking, howling, trying to hide, or getting into/out of the house, fence, or other enclosure, refusing to eat food, loss of bladder or bowel control, or experiencing temporary diarrhoea because of the prolonged stress of our firework displays.
Should we then ban fireworks, as countries like the US have done? Or is there a middle ground? Brunch chatted with proud pet owners on how they kept their fur babies safe during the mayhem of New Year fireworks.
‘Didn’t use firecrackers for four years’
I haven’t used firecrackers for the last four years, even on Sinhala New Year days or Christmas, because I have puppies. Basically, it’s not good for their eardrums, and animals are scared of that sound. This 31st night I kept all my puppies inside the house and stayed with them while others celebrated with firecrackers. Usually, my mother lights a milk pot in the dining room to celebrate the New Year, but this time she had to take it to the kitchen as my puppies were even afraid of the flames.
‘Pets read our body language’
The thing is technical, pets read our body language. If they are not already scared, then if we also don’t make a big deal, they’ll be fine. My girl is not really scared, but she just comes and sits next to me. The dog at my parents’ place is really scared. They put her in a room and one of them stays with her holding and petting her.
‘Best thing is to make them feel safe’
The best thing to do in these times is to keep them close, play some music, and smile at them and make them feel safe. I sometimes put a bandage in the shape of an 8 with a bedsheet on my dog. It works like a safety jacket and helps them calm down.
‘She calms down after the fireworks stop’
We have a little dog who is close to two years old and we try to keep her close whenever fireworks are happening. We try to avoid bringing firecrackers into the house, so we don’t spook her. However, although initially a little scared, she calms down once the fireworks stop.
‘Make them feel comfortable’
Tarena de Silva
My pets got spooked by the sound and the light on the 31st night. I kept them indoors, far away from the garden, and checked on them often with their favourite treats to make them feel comfortable.
A New Year survival guide for the sensitive pet
If you are struggling to shield your pets against fireworks during various celebrations, here are some tips;
- Know your pet and make a plan to keep them safe based on their needs
- Walk dogs early, so they don’t have a need to go outside when fireworks start
- Make sure your pets have plenty of exercise during festive days
- Keep your pets well hydrated
- Don’t take pets to fireworks displays and don’t light firecrackers in front of them, if your pets are particularly scared of them
- Keep cats in, make sure they are not wandering around during fireworks
- Create a safe space with their favourite treats and toys and familiar faces
- Provide them plenty of hiding spaces in your vicinity
- Close windows, curtains, and blinds
- Ask your veterinarian about calming medications
- Turn up the radio or TV to distract them from the unexpected bangs
- Provide rabbits with extra bedding
- Ignore the sound of fireworks
- Make your dog his very own thunder shirt
- Partly cover outside cages and pens with blankets so an area is soundproofed and hidden, but allow another area for the animals to look out
- Stay at home and be by their side
- Give them a treat to distract them
- Make sure their collars are on so you can locate them if they run away
- If your surrounding is too overwhelmingly noisy for them, consider taking your pets to a quieter location before the fireworks start
- If you have small animals in cages outside, consider bringing them into the house, so they won’t get light flashes or direct loud noises
- You may also prepare them by playing fireworks noises a few days in advance, thus the noises won’t come as a surprise and your pet will already be used to the noise
- You can turn a small nook or an open crate in your home into a secure cocoon for your pet with their favourite toys
How to make a DIY thunder shirt for your dog
Use a snug shirt or a bed sheet or ace bandages, basically something that will be tight enough to provide some light pressure to your dog.
Proceed to put the t-shirt on the dog backward, so that his tail pokes through the neck opening or place the middle of an ace bandage or your bed sheet across your dog’s chest (the size of the bandage will depend on your dog’s size).
Next tie the shirt tails across your dog’s chest or if you using the bed sheet or the ace bandages, bring both ends of the sheet or the bandage up, cross them over your dog’s shoulders, and then cross the bandage on the top of your dog’s shoulder blades and cross the loose ends under his stomach.