Does your dog cower in fear under your bed when you run the vacuum, or cling to you if a car backfires? Pets who suffer from noise aversion become anxious around loud noises, and seek out a hiding place or reassurance from a trusted human. This anxiety disorder causes pets significant stress and, unfortunately, summer is full of potential stressors. With seasonal thunderstorms, and July Fourth, right around the corner, you and your noise-sensitive pal may be approaching tough times. But, with some preparation, you may be able to ease your pet’s fears, and make the season a little more relaxing.
What is noise aversion in pets?
Noise aversion affects mainly dogs, who suffer from fear and anxiety in response to loud noises in their environment. Noise aversion is a common problem, affecting more than one-third of dogs, yet it often goes undiagnosed. Pet owners may not realize that noise aversion is a treatable medical condition they should discuss with their veterinarian, although it can affect the bond they share with their pet. During thunderstorm season, dogs with noise aversion may keep their owners up at night, with their whining, panting, and pacing. Tired, grumpy owners can become frustrated with these behaviors, and hold a grudge against their dog, who has no control over their behavior.
What are noise aversion signs in pets?
When a pet’s noise-related anxiety is triggered by loud sounds, they react much like a person having a panic attack, and may display a variety of behaviors, such as:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Seeking attention
- Uncontrolled urination or defecation
- Attempting to escape
- Destructive behaviors
Noise aversion typically develops when a dog is 1 to 2 years old, and often worsens, without treatment. The severity of your dog’s behaviors can vary—they may run and hide for only a few minutes in response to short, infrequent noises, such as a nearby car backfiring, but may have a more exaggerated reaction to prolonged noise, such as a thunderstorm or fireworks display. Severely affected dogs panic in these situations, and may resort to extreme measures, such as obsessively trying to escape their crate, digging through the floor, or crashing through a window.
How can I help my pet with noise aversion?
Although we may not be able to completely cure your pet’s fearful behaviors, by collaborating with our team at Animal Emergency Hospital and Urgent Care, you can likely lower your pet’s stress, and help them learn that loud noises are no reason to panic. With July Fourth quickly approaching, you should start preparing now, so follow our do’s and don’ts list for guidance:
- Do speak with our veterinary team — Call your family veterinarian to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s fears. They can help you devise a plan for success, and if your pet’s anxiety is severe, they may prescribe medication to help them relax.
- Do create a safe space for your pet — Many pets seek out a secure spot, such as a crate, closet corner, or the bathtub, when they feel anxious, so create a safe retreat for your pet during storms or fireworks. Place your pet’s bed, her favorite toys, and high-value treats, such as a peanut-butter-filled Kong, in an interior room, away from any windows. Turn on the television, or play music to drown out unwanted sounds, and plug in a diffuser filled with calming pheromones.
- Do desensitize your pet to loud noises — Desensitize your pet by pairing scary noises with a positive experience. Play thunderstorm or fireworks sounds at a low volume while you play with, pet, and lavish attention and treats on your dog. Work on this exercise each day for several weeks, slowly increasing the noise volume. If your pet reacts fearfully at any point, back up, and proceed more slowly.
- Do hug your pet — Much like swaddling an infant, applying steady pressure can help calm your frightened pet. But, instead of wrapping your arms around your furry friend, wrap them in a Thundershirt, which is designed to fit snugly around the body, to apply constant, calming pressure.
- Don’t overreact — Although your natural instinct is to reassure your best friend, fussing over their fearful reactions only justifies their fears. And, if you are anxious about thunderstorms, your pet will feed off your emotions, and become more nervous.
- Don’t punish your pet — Although your pet’s anxiety may cause sleepless nights and household damage, you must understand that your pet cannot control these extreme reactions to loud noises. Punishing your pet will only provide one more thing to fear—you.
- Don’t leave your dog outside during a thunderstorm — If your dog is caught outside during a thunderstorm, rather than realizing there is nothing to be afraid of, their anxiety will likely increase. Your pet may run away, or be injured, trying to escape your yard.
- Don’t take your dog to a fireworks display — Dressing your furry friend in red, white, and blue, and showing them off to your friends and family may be tempting, but up-close exposure to this intense situation is a bad idea. Leave your pal at home, in their safe space, where they cannot suddenly bolt away in fear.
If your pet hides in the bathtub during storms, and dives under the coffee table when you vacuum, contact your family veterinarian, so your pet can live a more enjoyable life. If your pet’s extreme fear causes an injury when your family veterinarian is unavailable, give us a call, as we are available to help 24 hours a day.