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How should I care for my pets during fireworks displays?

Article ID: 82
Last updated: 21 Dec, 2018
Revision: 13
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Across Australia annual celebrations may involve fireworks. Unfortunately, many animals are terrified by firework displays which can indirectly pose risks to animal safety by causing them to take flight and try to escape the loud noises. Dogs and horses in particular may be afraid of fireworks and many try to run away, sometimes injuring themselves in the process. We receive calls from distressed owners whose dogs have run away. Many of these dogs can end up several kilometres from home. Dogs have been known to jump through plate glass windows to escape loud noises, and easily jump over, or dig their way under fences that would normally contain them. 

What can I do for my dog? 

  • Prepare early. 
  • Talk to your vet about the treatment options available for managing noise phobias - ask them about any new treatment options.
  • Take your dog out for exercise before the fireworks start e.g. reasonably long walk, then after a couple of hours you can feed a meal. A tired and well-fed dog will likely be less anxious during the night. If you can, stay home to be with your pet. 
  • Let your dog be with you and try to be calm and normal. Avoid fussing over your pet excessively but try to engage them in normal activities such as playing. Reward your dog for their calm behaviour, rewards include giving dog treats and their favourite dog toy. 
  • Close the blinds/curtains, create a comfortable hiding place and allow your dog to go there to feel safe, put on some music or the TV to help mask the noise outside, and distract your dog with games and food.
  • Dogs who panic can choke themselves on a collar or lead, so never tether your dog during these times and never use a choke chain to restrain your dog. 
  • Make sure your dog is micro-chipped and that your contact details are up to date on the microchip register. Also ensure they are wearing an ID tag so they can be easily returned if they accidentally escape.
  • Direct supervision is important to help prevent injury or escape. If you cannot supervise your dog on the night consider making alternative arrangements so your dog will be supervised by a responsible person directly or consider boarding your dog so they will be safe. 

What about cats, rabbits and other pets? 

Cats should be kept indoors during fireworks displays. Most cats will find somewhere safe to hide and will usually venture out when the noise stops. Make sure you cat is microchipped and your details are up to date on the microchip register in case they wander and become lost. Rabbits and other small animals like guinea pigs should be safely housed during the fireworks display. 

Horses are particularly vulnerable to bolting when exposed to fireworks. If possible they should be securely stabled, or removed to a different location away from the fireworks display, and the risk of physical harm minimised. Remove any sharp objects that might injure a panicking animal, cover stable windows to hide the sight of the fireworks and dim the noise, and make sure you supply food and water. 

Dates to watch out for:

Australian Capital Territory 
•    Queen’s birthday long weekend 
•    Duration of the Canberra Show 
•    Summernats Festival 
•    New Year’s Eve 
•    Australia day
New South Wales
•    Duration of the Sydney Royal Easter Show 
•    New Year’s Eve 
Northern Territory
•    New Year’s Eve 
•    Territory Day July 1
•    New Year’s Eve
South Australia
•    New Year’s Eve 
•    Royal Adelaide Show 
•    Regatta night 
•    New Year’s Eve 
•    Australia Day Fireworks Display 
•    The Moomba Festival 
•    Duration of the Royal Melbourne Show 
•    New Year’s Eve 
Western Australia 
•    New Year’s Eve 


Australian Veterinary Association (2016). Keep your pets safe and secure on Australia Day (media release Jan 20th). 

Gronqvist, G., Rogers, C. & Gee, E. (2016). The management of horses during fireworks in New Zealand. Animals, 6 (3) 20.

This article was:  

Also listed in
folder Companion animals -> Dogs -> Behaviour
folder Companion animals -> Small mammals, birds and exotics
folder Companion animals -> Cats

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