Calming cats and dogs during fireworks

Michaela Meade

Loud noises like fireworks during New Year’s Eve celebrations can be stressful for pets.

According to RSPCA Victoria chief executive Dr Liz Walker, there are ways to calm a pet while you ring in the new year.

Dr Walker said the advice for calming a pet during celebratory fireworks was similar to a thunderstorm situation.

She said it was important to know when they’re coming – whether that’s a weather forecast or a schedule or celebrations in the area.

“Keeping your pets inside… is a really good idea,” Dr Walker said.

“Some of the things that help to keep them calm [are] turning on some music or the TV, closing the blinds and windows so that they can’t see the flashing lights… creating a safe place made from blankets.

“Sometimes the best thing for an animal is to put them in a small room… [and] give them some blankets that they can burrow underneath.

“Chewing is really calming for dogs, so getting them a kong or a chew toy… or an appropriately sized and fresh bone [is good].

“It’s like mindfulness for dogs.”

Dr Walker said if you have an animal that has displayed intense discomfort at loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks, it was best to speak to a vet in advance.

“You can get some medication, if it’s really bad… to help relax them,” she said.

“You can [also] start a program of desensitising them which means getting audio of thunderstorms or fireworks and playing it while they’re doing something that they love, quietly to begin with.

“You can associate that noise with doing something fun and gradually they should become more tolerant of it.

“That takes time, though, you can’t do it the day before, you’d have to plan it months in advance.”

Dr Walker said owners tend to know their animals best, and would know to do the right thing if their animal became uncomfortable.