The loud noises associated with summer thunderstorm season is one of
the most prevalent phobias in animals, and result in tens of thousands of them demonstrating destructive behaviour, escaping from their properties
and injuring themselves.
The following information is appropriate for domestic pets,
especially cats and dogs but may be useful for other domestic animals
too. Horses can also become extremely anxious from loud noises and
escape - we recommend you consult your equine vet for advice on
preparing your horses.
- Do not punish your pet for exhibiting his behaviour during times of stress.
- Attempt to
engage, distract and reassure your pet that everything is OK, but don't
'force' this if it becomes particularly distressed.
access to a safe area where your pet may feel more at ease. Animals usually
indicate their preferences such as under a bed or inside a wardrobe.
Allow it to go where it wants to feel safe. Close bird cages,
rabbit hutches and other fixed enclosures and ensure the pet door and
windows are closed and locked.
- Make sure that your boundary fences and gates are secure and that your pet cannot readily escape through them or over them.
- Ensure that
your pet wears identification, particularly a microchip. In the unfortunate event that your pet should escape from your property, it will run blindly away without regard to
where it is going. When it eventually calms down it will probably not
know where it is or how to return. A microchip gives you the greatest
chance that you and your pet will be reunited.
- If you know
that your pet is extremely fearful of thunderstorms, consult your vet to
see if he or she can prescribe medication that will calm it in known times of
Help your pet to deal with its fear one step at a time
Eliminating pet anxiety and phobia of loud noises will take time and a planned approach. It
is not easy but through a combination of desensitisation, distraction,
providing a comforting environment and where needed medication, you
should be able to reduce your animal’s anxiety and keep your pet safe.
2. When owner is away
3. When owner is at home
4. Deal with pet's anxiety
Follow these tips to prepare your pet for the fireworks season.
- Ensure your pet’s microchip details and council registration details are up-to-date and that your pet is wearing a collar/ID tag with your current phone number.
- Keep your pet in a
secure indoor area during fireworks and thunderstorms - a laundry or
garage is good if you have an outdoor pet. Alternatively, crate train your pet, then settle it in the crate for the duration of the fireworks.
- Create a hideout for your pet in a quiet room with as few windows as possible.
- Cover any windows in this room to further block out noise and to block out flashes of lightening or fireworks.
- Create a bed from
blankets for burrowing and put an unwashed tracksuit or a similar item
in the room so that the pet has your scent. Alternatively, prepare your
pet’s crate in a similar way.
- A few days or more
before the fireworks, start taking your pet into the room/crate and
giving it treats on the blankets so that it gets comfortable.
- If you are expecting fireworks, take you dog for a walk in the early afternoon to tire it out.
- Have food
available in the room such as kongs, bones, treatballs and long-lasting
treats. Extended chewing will help calm dogs and stimulation will
- Put on moderately
loud music or a TV to muffle loud outside noises and to distract your
pet. A small battery operated radio maybe a safe way to incorporate
noise for distraction into this room.
- Desensitising your pet to loud noises is a good option if you have time to invest and can do it in advance of fireworks
If you won't be home during the fireworks, make sure your pet will be safe.
- Lock your pet in the hideout/safe room or crate that you have prepared.
This will minimise the chance of your pet injuring itself or escaping if
it becomes distressed.
- Ensure there is plenty of water and some food in the room/crate.
- Take your dog to the toilet before locking it up, or if you have a cat, remember to put kitty litter in the room.
- Beware: if you
are leaving the pet unattended in a room and it becomes anxious, it may
behave erratically so ensure there are no dangerous items that the pet
could chew on or knock. Cords and cabling and any breakables should be
- Ensure the room is secure – pets can become very determined to escape when frightened.
- If you are
planning to medicate your pet, ensure that you follow the dosage
instructions exactly and medicate before anxiety sets in. Discuss your
plans with your vet.
- Return home as
quickly as possible to check on your pet and take it out to the toilet
after the noises have subsided, keeping it on a leash when you do, just
in case it's still upset or becomes spooked.
- Do not punish
your pet for any damage/bad behaviour on your return. Being fearful is
an emotional and instinctual response which an animal cannot control.
During fireworks or thunderstorms, the best thing you can do for your
pet is provide it with a safe and comfortable environment and give it no
further reason to be fearful. Having you there will help provide your
pet with comfort and support.
- If you are
medicating your pet, remember to do so before any anxiety sets in.
Ensure you follow the dosage instructions that your vet has given you,
and work out a plan to get your pet to consume the medication in the
most normal or least stressful way possible (such as hiding it in its
- Before the
fireworks start, take your pet into the safe room and scatter some
treats to keep it distracted and happy to be in the room. It's probably
advisable to allow your pet to exit and enter this room freely if it is
accustomed to roaming freely around the house.
- When the
fireworks start, continue with normal activities and keep your voice in a
typical tone. This will give your pet no reason to think that there may
be something worrying or unusual about the situation.
- If your pet becomes anxious, do not change your behaviour or voice. Maintain normal behaviour with the pet.
If your pet becomes extremely anxious around loud noises, you should
immediately begin desensitisation training or visit your vet to discuss
medication options. Anti-anxiety and sedative medication can help and
your vet will be able to give you the correct dosage for your pet.
Contact your local council and check your local
paper to find out where and when festivities, particularly fireworks in
your local area are planned. Some councils permit fireworks at Christmas
festivals in addition to New Years Eve so you may need to schedule your
visit to the vet before Christmas.
Gradually exposing your dog to loud noises may, in time, desensitise your dog to the fear it associates with loud noises.
- CDs of frightening noises are available from RSPCA veterinary clinics or you could find videos of fireworks on YouTube.
- Start playing
the noises at a soft volume and after many times played over an
extended period of time, gradually work up to a louder volume.
- While the loud
noises are on, give your dog treats and play games with it so that it
associates positive things with the loud noises.
- If your pet
shows any fear or becomes distressed when listening to the CD, turn the
volume right down, allow your pet’s fear to dissipate then start the
process again, progressing very slowly.