Halloween and Bonfire Night can be a very distressing time for our pets, and with that in mind a vet is recommending owners prepare early for the season.

Loud noises from fireworks and frequent knocks at the door from trick-or-treaters dressed in strange costumes can cause behavioural changes and anxiety in cats and dogs.

Taking precautionary steps as soon as possible will help give our furry friends the best chance to remain calm. 

Jackie Marshall, qualified vet and Technical Advisor at leading veterinary nutraceuticals company VetPlus, said: “Although lots of fun for humans, occasions such as Halloween and Bonfire Night can be quite overwhelming for pets, disrupting their routine and exposing them to frightening sounds and sights like fireworks and more visitors knocking on the door. 

“Managing anxiety in pets isn’t a quick fix and it is important that owners support their pets to help them cope better with anxiety and stress. This can be done in a variety of ways, including nutraceuticals, behavioural training, or environmental changes.

“The earlier in advance these changes are implemented, the more positive the results will be.”

How to keep your pets calm around fireworks

To help pet owners prepare, Jackie has shared three top tips for the run up to this season’s festivities.

Create a safe space

One of the most effective ways to prepare your pet for this season is to make sure they have a quiet space away from the loud bangs and bright lights.  

Fill this area with your pet’s favourite toys and bedding, alongside an item of clothing with your scent on it so that they are comforted by the smell.

Create this safe haven in advance of Halloween and Bonfire Night, using treats and rewards to build positive associations so it is somewhere that your pet knows that they can retreat to if needed at any time.

Try behavioural training techniques

It is possible to help your pet change their behaviour and reduce their fear of loud noises, but this takes time – you need to start well in advance of events such as Halloween and Bonfire Night.   

Various training techniques can be used such as playing recordings to gradually expose your cat or dog to very low levels of noise, slowly increasing the volume if they don’t react. Create positive associations by then using treats to reward them while the sounds are playing.

Eventually, your pet will begin to associate the noises with tasty treats, instead of something they should be scared of.

Remember to stop immediately if you see any signs of fear in your pet, and only restart the process at a volume your pet is comfortable with once they are calm. It’s best to consult your vet or qualified behaviourist for further advice about these techniques.

Try pet calming products

Anti-anxiety products such as nutraceuticals and diffusers are effective in supporting relaxed behaviour in cats and dogs and can help to minimise the impact of firework season for pets.

Look for products like those in the VetPlus CALMEX® range which includes nutraceuticals and a diffuser proven to help manage stress levels. These can be used in the short and long-term to support your pet and their behaviour can be monitored using PLASID®, the free behavioural app from VetPlus which contains a variety of tips in the form of videos and articles from animal behaviourists.