Thunderstorms and fireworks may provide an entertaining sound and light show for humans but for pets they can be terrifying. Sadly, the reaction of many dogs and cats is to try and out run the noise – and they run, and run and run. In their frantic efforts they may get hit by a car or end up in a strange environment suburbs away and not be able to find their way home.
Many dogs will damage themselves and surroundings as they try to chew their way to freedom to escape the noise.
After every thunderstorm or fireworks display ʻLost and Foundʼ columns will list many lost dogs and cats and animal welfare shelters know their admittance figures will climb steeply.
Owners should plan how to keep their pet safe in advance of any advertised fireworks display or forecast thunderstorm activity.
Ensure that your pet wears a collar and tag with contact details and/or is microchipped. This enables your pet to be quickly re-united with you if it escapes.
Keep your dog and cat inside in familiar surroundings. The pet needs to feel safe and is less stressed if you remain with it.
Do not console the pet as this can make it believe you are also worried. Remain calm and cheerful and act normal.
Never chastise your pet for being scared.
Close the curtains or blinds to hide the flashes from fireworks or lightning.
Play music or put the radio or tv on to help drown out the noise.
Play games with your pet to distract it.
If you have a dog with a thunder storm phobia it can be difficult to manage at times when you are absent and, as we all know, weather forecasts are not 100% accurate and unexpected storms happen.
Ensuring that your pet is identified and that your yard is escape proof helps minimize risk to your pet.
Your local veterinarian may be able to suggest behaviour modification techniques to help overcome thunder or fireworks fear but these are a long term strategy and not an overnight fix. De-sensitizing the pet to fireworks and thunder saves it from suffering a great deal of distress.
Never take your dog to a fireworks display or to areas in proximity. Noise from fireworks can be heard over a long distance and fireworks displays in other suburbs may upset your pet.
If the worst happens and your pet goes missing check all the nooks and crannies first to make sure it isnʼt hiding somewhere. Cats are very clever at hiding away and ignoring your calls. Once you are sure the pet is missing, door knock your neighbours and ask them to check their yards, sheds and under their houses.
Phone your local Council and animal welfare shelters and ask them to record details of your missing pet.
Phone your local veterinarians as if it has been injured it may be taken to their surgery.
Having taken these initial steps to see if the pet is in your immediate neighbourhood it is time to widen the search if it hasnʼt been found.
A “flyer” with a description of the pet and a photo if possible, should be drawn up, photocopied and distributed. Dogs can run quite a distance in a few hours so expand your search into neighbouring suburbs. Place advertisements in Lost and Found in the newspapers. It is better to put only a description of the pet and the date rather than the area in which the pet is lost. A finder may believe it is not your pet if they have found it in a different suburb.
Visit all the animal welfare shelters and Council pounds in surrounding areas every few days and ask to look through the pens. Do not depend on phone calls to ascertain whether your pet is in the shelter or pound. Your description of the pet may be quite different to how someone else views it.
Petcare Information and Advisory Service Australia