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  • Paul Hodgkinson Vet Physio

Help keep your animals safe and happy this bonfire season.


What a magical time Autumn can be, with so much to look forward too. Changes in colour, cosy evenings and all the festivities that we have planned. It really is one of my favourite times of year.

Although the next couple of weeks are a busy time for most, it's important to remember that a little bit of forward planning is always key to keeping our four legged companions safe this bonfire night. Remember Remember the 5th of November and what can sometimes seem like every night in the run up!

It's estimated that around 45% of dogs show signs of fear from firework celebrations and with horses being a natural flight animal they are also prone to feeling stress and anxiety during this time. Whilst we can sometimes feel a little bit helpless during the moment, there are plenty of things we can do to help keep stress and anxiety at bay during the inevitable whizz, bangs and flashes.

From playing music to having the right insurance, The British Horse Society & RSPCA have shared some great advice and tips to keep the celebrations as stress free as possible for you, your horse and dog.

Horse Tips

1. Look out for advertisements in local press, shops or poster frames. This will give you a good indication as to when and where some displays will be taking place.

2. Where every possible make contact with the organisers of the events. Although you know that there are horses stabled nearby, they may not realise. Making sure fireworks are not set off in the direction of your yard is one simple step which could make a huge difference.

3. Stick to normal routine and environment. If your horse is used to being stabled at night, keep it that way. As long as the area is safe and secure its best to still turn your horse out if that's what it's normal routine is, maybe keep it with a companion.

4. Risk assess the environment. If your horse is spooked there is the potential for it to causes injury or damage. Have a check for protruding nails or string and make sure there are no foreign objects lying around.

5. Stay with your horse, but remember your own safety. Don't ever put yourself in danger. If you are unable to stay with your horse, leave instructions and contact details in case a problem should arise.

6. Play music on a radio positioned outside the stable. This can often mask sudden noise, distract attention and be soothing.

7. Try to stay calm yourself and keep positive as a horse will sense your unease and it may make things worse if your horse is startled.

8. What ever you do, don't risk riding when you think fireworks may be set off.

9. If there is a bonfire near your yard, make sure you have emergency fire procedures in place. If in doubt, talk to your local fire safety officer.

10. Make sure that you have adequate third party liability insurance. If your horse is frightened and escapes, causing an accident, then you could be held liable for any compensation.

Dog tips

1. Walk them during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be let off

2. Close Windows and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks

3. Put on some music or TV to mask the sounds

4. Create a quiet space where your dog can feel in control

5. Never punish your dog when they are scared. It will only make them worse. Let them pace and make their own noise.

6. It's fine to comfort your dog if it relaxes them, but be mindful to not force them to be somewhere they don't want to or don't feel safe

7. Give them lots of praise and stay positive.

8. Make sure your dog has a collar with contact details on, or even better micro chipped. Even though they are inside they may try to escape if you answer the door even if they wouldn't normally.

9. Keep water topped up. Anxious dogs pant more, meaning they get thirstier quicker

10. Don't leave your dog alone, it's not there fault they've destroyed your favourite cushion, they were scared. If in doubt, don't go out!

For more tips and advice on keeping your four legged friend safe and calm this bonfire night, follow BHS.org.uk or RSPCA.org.uk.

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