Owners urged to minimise seasonal fireworks trauma for pets

The British Veterinary Association said it is concerned there may be an increase in unregulated backyard fireworks this year as official displays are limited by COVID-19 restrictions

The association is urging pet owners and livestock keepers who are worried about their animals’ welfare to take steps now to avoid possible injury and distress during traditional fireworks dates such as Bonfire Night, Halloween, Diwali and New Year’s Eve.

Many animals have more acute hearing than humans, so the loud bangs and whistles– which at 150 decibels can be as loud as the noise from a jet engine – can cause significant distress and fear and lead to the development of phobia responses.

In a survey conducted by BVA in 2018, around one in 14 vets across the country reported seeing animals with firework-related injuries over the previous year, with equine vets significantly more likely to report such cases (19%). By far the most commonly reported cases were self-injuries caused by fireworks-related anxiety, such as fractures in horses that had bolted from their fields or tooth injuries to dogs from chewing furniture.

The negative impact isn’t restricted to noise levels – the debris and remnants of fireworks and paper lanterns in fields and surrounding countryside can also pose a serious risk of injury to livestock, wildlife and zoo animals.

BVA senior vice president Daniella Dos Santos said: “The loud noises and bright flashes from fireworks can be extremely traumatic for animals, from dogs, cats and rabbits to livestock, horses, wildlife and zoo animals. While COVID-19 restrictions may lead to the cancellation of official displays, we are worried about a rise in the number of backyard celebrations.

“We’d encourage pet owners and livestock keepers to consult with their vet as far in advance as possible to discuss management and treatment options, which may include noise desensitisation techniques, applying pheromone products around the house, and preparing a ‘safe place’ for animals.”

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