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Pet Anxiety—Thunderstorms and Fireworks

A booming thunderstorm or a crackling display of fireworks can be an exhilarating experience for us humans, however for our pets these events are often frightening and stressful, with unpredictable loud noises, a strong smell of explosives and flashing lights.

Here are the most common signs of anxiety to look for, along with our top tips for keeping your pets safe during stormy days and fireworks celebrations.

Thunderstorm and Fireworks Anxiety in Dogs

Thunderstorms and fireworks can be very stressful for some dogs, with responses ranging from mild discomfort to severe anxiety. Signs that your dog may be feeling anxious include:

  • Panting excessively

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Whimpering or howling

  • Trying to hide or seek comfort

  • Barking or being vocal in general

  • Pacing or restlessness

  • Destructive behaviour, such as chewing or digging

  • Loss of appetite

  • Trying to escape or running away

  • Excessive licking or grooming

  • Dilated pupils

  • Increased heart rate or breathing rate

  • Urinating or defecating in the house

  • Hiding under furniture or in small spaces

It's important to note that every dog may exhibit different signs of anxiety, and not all dogs will display all of the above signs.

Helping Your Dog to Stay Calm

Here are our top tips for helping your dog to remain calm during a thunderstorm or fireworks display:

  • Be as prepared as possible, including walking dogs in the afternoon, feeding large meals to encourage sleeping and getting them used to firework sounds.

  • Bring your dog indoors during a storm or fireworks display. Shut all external doors and windows, and keep curtains tightly shut.

  • Provide background noise (television, radio, fan, or white noise). Distract your dog with TV/radio/music (reggae works apparently!) and act as if nothing's wrong.

  • Offering a safe place to escape to. Shut all external doors/windows, keep curtains tightly shut and provide quiet safe space/den/room filled with your pet's favourite toys/treats/blankets.

  • Some dogs respond well to the various capes and wraps such as the Thundershirt.

  • Pheromone products such as Adaptil for dogs may help to provide reassurance and comfort.

  • Reward calm behaviour with a treat or a confident and reassuring pat.

Thunderstorm and Fireworks Anxiety in Cats

Common signs of thunderstorm or fireworks anxiety in cats may include:

  • Hiding, such as under the bed or in a cupboard.

  • Excessive vocalisation or meowing

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Pacing

  • Excessive grooming

  • Loss of appetite

  • Inappropriate elimination. Cats may urinate or defecate outside the litter box due to the stress of the situation.

  • Destructive behaviour e.g. furniture scratching

  • Some cats may become clingy and seek more attention from their owners during thunderstorms or fireworks.

Keeping Your Cat Calm

Here are our tips for keeping your kitty cat calm during a thunderstorm or fireworks:

  • Create a safe and comfortable space for your cat to hide in during a thunderstorm or fireworks. This can be a cosy den, a crate or a room where they feel safe and secure.

  • Play some calming music or turn on a white noise machine to help mask the sound of thunderstorms or fireworks.

  • Provide your cat with toys, treats or puzzles to distract them from the noise outside.

  • Pheromone products such as Feliway for cats may help to provide reassurance and comfort.

Remember, every cat is different, so it may take some trial and error to find what works best for your cat. Be patient and provide plenty of love and reassurance during these stressful times.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Above all, it’s important to keep calm yourself. Your cat or dog can pick up on your emotions, so it's important to try and act as if nothing is happening and go about your normal routine.

In addition to the tips listed above, you should also:

  • Keep water bowls topped up as anxious pets may drink more.

  • Check microchip details are up to date in case of escapes.

If you find that your pet is not responding to these methods please contact us for advice. Severe responses may require medication and/or desensitisation and counter-conditioning from our experienced vets.

Please call us on (03) 9568 2211 to book a consultation.


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