Noise aversion, which is defined as a fear reaction to a sudden, loud sound, affects roughly two-thirds of dogs, although underdiagnosis is likely because many pet owners do not mention the signs to their veterinarian. If your pet—cats can be affected by noise aversion, too—displays the following signs when they hear a loud sound, they may have noise aversion:
- Excessive vocalization
- Heavy panting
- Clinging to your side
- Inappropriate urination or defecation
- Destructive behavior
Pets often exhibit these signs during a thunderstorm or fireworks display, but they can develop noise aversion to a variety of sounds. Use the following five tips to help your pet cope with noise aversion.
#1: Limit your pet’s exposure to their sound triggers
Does your cat dart out of the kitchen when you turn on the blender? Maybe your dog runs for the bedroom during a gunfight on TV. Learning what sounds trigger your pet’s noise aversion is key to helping minimize their exposure and reducing their anxiety. Common triggers for noise aversion in pets include:
- Construction work
- Booming TV or radio noises
- Children yelling
- Heavy traffic
- Gun shots
Most of these triggers can be prepared for ahead of time to minimize their effect on your pet. For example, if you plan on remodeling your house, consider boarding your pet during the day, so they can escape the noise.
#2: Work on behavioral modification to positively associate loud sounds
Behavioral modification for noise-averse pets consists of counterconditioning and desensitization. Paired together, these techniques can help your pet form a less negative—perhaps positive—association with their sound triggers.
Learn to apply these techniques using this thunderstorm example:
- Desensitization — To desensitize your pet to thunderstorms, play a soundtrack of thunder, rain, and wind at a low, tolerable volume. If your pet shows any anxiety signs, lower the volume. Once your pet appears comfortable with the sound level, begin using counterconditioning, increasing the volume slowly with each positive reaction.
- Counterconditioning — Counterconditioning revolves around positive interaction with your pet when they are faced with what frightens them. When playing the thunderstorm soundtrack, pet, play with, or treat your pet, to help them form a positive association with the sound.
With patience and time, your pet can change how they feel about loud events, and begin to remain calm.
#3: Create a safe haven for your pet during unavoidable loud events
Sometimes you cannot avoid loud events. Your pet will have to ride out your neighbor’s nighttime jam session with his garage band, a severe summer thunderstorm, or your block’s fireworks show, but you can help them by providing a safe haven. Outfit the quietest room in your home as their safe place with a cozy bed, their favorite toy, and a long-lasting treat or food puzzle, which will help distract your pet and let them relax. Play white noise or classical music to drown out the scary sounds, and hang out with your pet until the noise ends.
#4: Use calming supplements and products as needed for extra soothing benefits
Calming supplements and other items that can take the edge off your pet’s anxiety during loud events include:
- Oral supplements (e.g., Zylkene, Solliquin)
- Compression wraps (e.g., ThunderShirt)
- Pheromones for cats or dogs
Always check with your Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital veterinarian before starting your pet on any medication or supplement.
#5: Turn to your Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital veterinarian for help
In many cases, noise-averse pets benefit from prescription products designed to help ease their anxiety. Some prescription medications are meant for long-term use, while others can be used as-needed, like before a fireworks show. Ask our team if a prescription medication would be a good option for your pet.
Living in fear of all the sounds around you is no fun, so get your pet the help they need. Contact our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team and schedule an appointment.