New Year's Fireworks, Parties, and Your Pet

How to Keep Your Fur-Child Calm During the Celebrations!
30 DEC 2020

This article is written by Pet Circle Veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc.

While you're preparing for New Year's Eve celebrations and fireworks, it's important to be aware of how these events can affect your fur babies. For some pets, fireworks and loud social gatherings can be a significant source of anxiety.

For dogs, the biggest cause of stress at New Years is the fireworks. For cats, the biggest cause of stress tends to be loud social gatherings. Interestingly, you can address both of these anxiety-based issues with a similar approach!

Skip to a section:

Why are Dogs Scared of Fireworks?

There are a number of reasons why dogs find fireworks frightening:

1. Fireworks are loud. Firstly, they're incredibly noisy - and while the sound may be bearable for us comparitively audibly-challenged humans, dogs have a more acute sense of hearing than us. So all of those those loud cracks, booms, and rumbling whistles can be unbearable.

2. Fireworks are unexpected. While we expect fireworks on holidays like New Years Eve, our dogs aren't aware of the calendar and these explosions come without warning. This can lead many dogs to perceive them as a threat, which in turn triggers their fight-or-flight response.

3. Fireworks are inescapable. Fireworks can make your dog feel trapped and unable to escape. So if the noises trigger your dog’s flight response, they will try to run from the threat. Unfortunately, there’s often nowhere to go, as you can still hear those loud booms indoors.

Back to top

1. Prior To The Fireworks

When to exercise and feed?

Try to exercise your pet a few hours before the party and fireworks begin to help tire them out and get some endorphins flowing. For cats, a long play session lasting at least 20-30 minutes with plenty of chasing and jumping is great - and remember to do this before any guests arrive or noisy events begin. For dogs, take them on a reasonably long walk in the afternoon or early evening. Remember to avoid exercising your dog during extreme heat and take care if you've got a brachycephalic breed (e.g. Pugs, French Bulldogs) who don't tolerate long walks in the warmer weather.

With regards to feeding, it's important to feed your pet at some point prior to the party because a well-fed and tired pet is less likely to be anxious. But remember that stressed animals often refuse food. Therefore, try to feed your pet nice and early, well before the preparations begin.

Stress Management

Ask your vet about options for stress management. Your veterinarian can assess your pet and provide a management plan to help them cope with stressful situations such as fireworks. Some strategies that might be implemented include the use of pheromones, prescription medication and behaviour modification techniques.

Pheromone Products

Pheromones are unique chemical substances produced by animals and play a role in establishing feelings of wellbeing and emotional stability. Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats are synthetic versions that are safe, odourless and easy to use. In some cases, anti-anxiety medication may be required for pets displaying signs of a phobia such as salivating, shaking, pacing, and destructive behaviour.

Anxiety Wraps

Similar to 'swaddling' a baby in a blanket, anxiety wraps like the ThunderShirt work by applying gentle pressure to the torso, helping to reduce stress and fear. Available for both dogs and cats, these are safe and very easy to use.

Calming Supplements

There are a range of nutraceuticals which may have a calming effect on dogs and cats who experience noise phobia or anxiety. These calming aids or prescription medication should be administered at least 30 minutes prior to the fireworks. Our top recommendations for calming supplements include:

a) Zylkene - a great natural anxiety supplement available for both cats and dogs. This easy-to-give capsule contains a natural product derived from casein, a protein found in milk. Casein is a molecule known for calming newborns during breastfeeding.

b) Tryptophan based products - You may have also heard of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Interestingly, the precursor to Serotonin has been used in animals to assist with behavioural and anxiety disorders. PAW Blackmore's Complete Calm Chews contains this precursor, Tryptophan, as well as a combination of B vitamins and nutrients which can be used long-term on a daily basis in pets.

c) Hemp-based products - anecdotally, some pet owners find these can help with anxiety. While they don't contain any CBD or THC, hemp seeds are a rich source of omega fatty acids and can have health benefits. From the Hemp Pet range, our top recommendation for anxiety is the Hemp, Hoki and MCT Blend Oil.

d) Chamomile products - may help in some cases. These are available as an easy to administer oral liquid.

Dr. Kim explains how to reduce noise phobia in dogs. See more helpful pet tip videos like this on Pet Circle's Youtube Channel.

Back to top

Update Microchip Details

Of course you should always keep your pet's microchip details up to date, but it is extra important around storm and fireworks season. If your phone number has changed since your pet was first registered (which may be over a decade ago if you have a senior pet!), you won't be able to be contacted if your pet goes missing. Just in case your pet escapes or becomes lost, you will be reunited with them much quicker if the details are correct.

Not sure how to update your microchip details? Follow these steps:

1. Locate your pet's microchip number. This may be recorded on paperwork you have for your pet, such as a vaccination book or adoption records. In Australia, microchip numbers are 15 digits long. If you can't find the microchip number in your paperwork, you'll need to take your pet in to your local vet and have their chip scanned.

2. Find out which database your pet is registered with Unfortunately, microchip registration in Australia is not centralised, and there are a number of different databases your pet's chip may be registered with. Visit www.petaddress.com.au and input your pet's microchip number to find out which database you need to contact.

3. Update details through this specific database website.

Back to top


2. During The Main Event

Provide a Safe Haven

Ideally, bring your pet indoors and into a 'safe haven' which should be a quiet, darkened room where they can't injure themselves - similar to a 'den'. Some pets may have a special spot they like to go to where they feel secure, and you can allow them to do so as long as it's safe. Deck this area out with a cosy bed, their favourite toys, and use those pheromone products we mentioned before. If your pet is crate trained, ensure to include the crate in this safe haven.

Play Music

It may be tempting to bust out some loud 90's pop music - it is New Years after all, and who doesn't love the Spice Girls! But within your pet's safe haven, consider playing some calming meditation music, Enya, or similiar music in an effort to distract your pet from the bangs and crackles happening outside.

Celebrate At Home

If possible, stay at home so you can directly supervise your pet. Fearful animals are much more likely to settle if their pet parent is close by. If you have friends over, try to keep them away from your pet's safe haven, and be sure not to let rowdy, intoxicated guests stress out your pet.

Act Calm

Remember to act calmly and avoid fussing over your pet too much. Although it feels natural to reassure your pet with praise and attention, it can actually positively reinforce their fearful behaviour. If possible, try and engage them in normal activities such as playing, or ignore them altogether. It's also important to reward your pet for displaying calm behaviour and to never punish them as this will only heighten their fear.

Back to top

3. After It's All Over

Not The Snags!

Our drooly friends might try all the tricks to get their paws on one of those left over sausages, but it's not worth the risk if it means a trip to the veterinary clinic. Some popular festive foods that should be kept well out of reach of your furry friend include ham and fatty meats, chocolate, alcohol, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, sultanas, mango seeds, onion and garlic. Treat them the right way with some drool-worthy (AND healthy) treats designed just for them.

H20

Make sure you leave plenty of fresh water out for your pets before you hit the hay. Animals who are stressed and have been panting and pacing will also require more water than usual. Plus, New Year's Day is during the hottest time of the year so it's extra important to ensure they're kept hydrated. Consider a pet water fountain, some of which can hold over 2L of water at a time. Cats and dogs also naturally prefer to drink from running water, and most contain a filter to ensure that the water always stays clean and fresh. There are also automated feeders which means you wont have to do a thing! With the capability to schedule up to four separate meals, your pet doesn't need to wake you up to get their morning brekky!

Back to top


Further Reading

Take a look at our other vet-written articles:

How To Help Your Dog with Storm Phobia

Christmas Foods that are Toxic To Pets

What is the best treat for your dog?

Summer Dangers: Avoid heatstroke in pets

Dental Care for Cats