Vets braced for pet ‘fright nights’ in November
- 800 terrified pets needed treatment for fireworks phobias
- Two pet firework fatalities
- 11 pets were seriously injured
- Millions of UK pets left quaking in fear
UK vets are bracing themselves for another influx of terrified and injured pets this Bonfire Night, as PDSA reveals it treated 800 animals for fireworks phobias and injuries in the past year.
The vet charity warns this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as millions of pets are frightened by the noise of fireworks.
Tragically, the fear is often well founded: PDSA also treated 11 pets for serious fireworks-related injuries in the last 12 months, including two whose injuries were so severe they had to be euthanised.
In one case a dog managed to pick up a lit firework, causing severe burns to its mouth. In another shocking case a stray firework landed on a dog’s head causing it to flee into the path of a car.
PDSA vet Vicki Larkham-Jones warned people to be mindful of the damaging effects fireworks have on animals, as the charity issued guidance to pet owners to keep their four-legged companions safe.
Vicki said: “The fireworks season is now in full-swing with people celebrating Halloween and Bonfire Night across the UK. But while these occasions are often great fun for families, it’s important to remember that they can be a terrifying experience for our pets.
“Millions of UK pets are affected by fireworks and, while there might not seem much we can do to avoid them, we can take steps to minimise the fear and anxiety many pets suffer.”
PDSA has treated a total of 771 pets for fireworks phobia since October 2014. Treatment includes:
In the most severe cases, vets prescribed anxiety drugs to avoid pets causing serious injury to themselves or others.
- Advising pet owners on desensitisation techniques they can adopt at home in advance of firework season.\
- Pheromone products help pets relax,
- Playing music with a repetitive beat
Vicki added: “Pets cannot understand the sound of loud bangs outside which leads to fear and anxiety setting in. Many of our pets have very acute hearing, which only adds to the impact of these sounds.
“All pets can be affected and become anxious and stressed. Dogs may tremble, pace, pant and become ‘clingy’, while cats may try to hide behind furniture, or attempt to run away. Both dogs and cats may refuse to eat and may toilet in the house because of firework-related stress. Rabbits may freeze and remain motionless, or may panic and try to escape their hutches.
“To try to avoid firework fear with your pet, early socialisation is important to get them used to such noises. As hard as it is, when your pet is displaying any of these signs of anxiety, don’t reassure them as you can inadvertently be reinforcing their feeling that there’s something to be worried about.”
Vicki said that for any pets who are fearful, veterinary advice should be sought including long-term behavioural therapy.
Thanks to funding support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, PDSA has produced a fireworks advice guide for pet owners. This can be viewed on the website, along with the option to download a free advice leaflet, at www.pdsa.org.uk/fireworks
Zakk, a Collie-Alsatian cross, ended up with severe wounds to his legs and paws last Bonfire Night after becoming spooked by fireworks and bolting from his owner’s garden.
The 10-year-old dog from Stoke had been let out into the garden by owner Kirsty Burton when a neighbour released fireworks in their garden. Zakk immediately panicked at the sound and ran off.
Kirsty (22) said: “It was quiet when I let Zakk out, then the fireworks suddenly started. Zakk just fled, he jumped straight over the gate and ran off.
“We spent the next few hours searching for him, with no luck. We were so worried. One of our neighbours found him in their garden the next day, he had blood all over him and his paws were cut.”
Zakk was taken to PDSA’s Stoke Pet Hospital where vets assessed the wounds on his front legs and paws.
Duncan Senior, PDSA Senior Vet, said: “We can’t say for sure what happened to Zakk that night but he sustained some quite nasty injuries. It was initially hard to see the extent of the wounds to Zakk’s legs due to swelling.
“We cleaned and dressed his wounds and prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection.
“It took around a month for Zakk’s wounds to heal sufficiently and he’s now made a full recovery, but he is incredibly lucky that he didn’t sustain more serious injuries.
“This case highlights how important it is to keep our pets safe at this time of year. They can easily become scared and go missing, putting them at risk of road accidents or other hazards.”
Kirsty still doesn’t know exactly how Zakk sustained his injuries but she is now much more wary about his safety during the fireworks season.
She said: “He might have been hit by a car but we’ll never know for sure. Zakk had never shown any fear of fireworks before but I’ll be more wary before letting him out for the toilet or taking him on a walk.”