Booming thunder, exploding fireworks, and pounding celebration music can startle anyone, so imagine just how scary these loud noises can be for our pets. And, it isn’t just these seasonal blaring noises that can cause your pet to be uncomfortable; children screaming, traffic and street sounds, construction work, slamming doors, and television noises can all contribute to noise phobias in pets.
Showing fear is not something most of our furry pals like to do, so we may not even be aware anything is wrong. Unfortunately, chronic stress from fear can cause some serious damage to your pet’s body, so getting noise phobias under control is crucial for your pet’s well-being. Over time, noise phobias can also lead to other behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety.
Signs of noise aversion
Remember, not all pets show fear equally. Some may bust through windows, while others just stay glued to your side. Here are some common signs of noise aversion in pets:
- Hiding in small, enclosed spaces, like under beds or in closets
- Intense barking, whining, or howling
- Urinating inappropriately
- Clinging to owner
- Freezing or immobility
- Destructive behavior, like chewing for scratching door frames or window sills
- Attempts to escape
How to handle the fear
For most people, it’s second nature to soothe a frightened animal or child. Unfortunately, comforting your pet in a scary situation actually rewards the fearful behavior. As your pet becomes more frightened, you try to calm her more.
“It’s all right, poor baby! You’re such a good dog! You’re doing great!”
Essentially, you’re telling her she’s a good dog for being terrified, which only serves to escalate a noise phobia. Here are some tips to help relax your freaked-out pet:
- Distraction is key.
- Play a favorite game
- Start a training session
- Break out a brand-new toy
- Sniff out a treat puzzle
- Hide treats around the house
- Ignore the storm, fireworks, and blaring noises.
- Act unconcerned when these noises occur. Your pet will look to you for guidance during these times.
- A long walk or play session during the day can tire out your pooch and lead to a more relaxed evening.
- Create a safe place. Try to place a cozy bed or crate in a soundproofed area of your home, allowing your pet to snuggle in and avoid the booming noises and lightning flashes.
- Never punish your pet when she’s scared. This can make the unnerving event even more horrifying.
Some pets become so fired up and freaked out that they cause harm to themselves, their owners, or their homes. Busting out of windows, biting owners, or eating through walls are signs that your pet’s noise phobia is so severe that you need to call our office. Remember, noise phobias can escalate, especially as your pet grows older and may develop some cognitive disorders, so starting early with treatment is key.
Finding the perfect recipe for each pet is a process. Your pooch may respond totally different to a medication than your neighbor’s dog would, so please be patient while we learn the best treatment for your pet. Here at TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Mountain Island, we are committed to finding a solution for every pet.
Some possible solutions include:
- Calming supplements — L-theanine, tryptophan, valerian, thiamine, melatonin, chamomile, and passion flower
- Thundershirts — Gentle compression wrap applying soft pressure
- Dog-appeasing pheromones — Adaptil collars, sprays, and diffusers
- Anti-anxiety medications — Daily or on an as-needed basis; can include Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and alpha₂ agonists
- Essential oils — Calming blends, lavender, Bach’s Flower Remedies
- Behavioral modification — Usually used in addition to medications
- Counter-conditioning — Pairing a reward with the terrifying noise (thunder=cheese)
- Desensitization — Playing the noise softly and gradually increasing the volume over time, as long as your pet stays calm
Noise phobias can worsen over time and can also lead to other anxiety issues and phobias. For more information, read this article or call us at 704-971-2075 to schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s noise phobia. Once we have assessed your pet and found the best solution to end her fear, your entire family can enjoy the summer stress-free.