Loud Noise Aversion in Dogs and Cats

6/14/16

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Summer is a wonderful time of year for most – more time outdoors, picnics and barbeques, and trips to the beach. However, for those of us that have pets with loud noise aversion, summer means thunderstorms, fireworks, and all the anxiety, distress, and suffering that our pets experience.  Here is a brief overview of causes, signs/symptoms, along with treatments and strategies to help manage your pet’s noise aversion.

Causes of Noise Aversion in Pets

While the exact cause of loud noise aversion is unknown, it may be due to lack of exposure in early development, a genetic predisposition for emotional reactivity, or result from a traumatic event.  Often, pets with noise aversion or phobias also suffer from other anxiety disorders.

Signs of Noise Aversion

While reactions to loud noises are natural, some pets experience escalating fear behaviors.  If you repeatedly see the following symptoms in reaction to loud noises, your pet may have a true noise aversion.

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Hiding or clinging by the owners side
  • Excessive salivation
  • Trembling
  • Destructiveness
  • Excessive vocalizing
  • Attempting escape and/or panicked running
  • Self-inflicted trauma (from self-soothing behaviors like licking or chewing, or from escape attempts)
  • Hypervigilance
  • Fecal incontinence

 

What can be done to help our furry friends with noise aversion?

Firstly, consult with your pet’s veterinarian at Family Pet Animal Hospital to rule out any underlying medical conditions.  Certain medical conditions can exaggerate your pet’s fear responses.  Moderate to severe noise aversion is managed most successfully with a combination of strategies including environmental controls and drug therapy to ease your pet’s suffering.  Below you will find some tips to help keep your pet safe and reduce his/her anxiety during noise events.

Don’t panic.

You’ve heard the saying, “Anxiety travels down the leash,” right?  Our pets are acutely aware of our emotions and responses to the environment.  Try to stay calm and be present for the needs of your pet.

Close windows and doors to secure your home.

Securing windows and doors to your home can help limit the exposure to fear-evoking sights and sounds.  Additionally, this will decrease the risk of your pet escaping.

Create a safe space. 

Choose a safe spot for your pet to “weather the storm (whether it is an actual storm or other noise event that induces fear and anxiety in your pet).  Pets will often find a covered space comforting.  Place familiar items such as favorite blankets and toys in the area and provide plenty of your pet’s favorite treats.  Ideally, this safe space should be in an interior space in your home, away from windows and doors to limit exposure and decrease chances of escape.  Consider installing sound-insulation for this safe space as well.

Don’t use punishment.

While this seems like a no-brainer, we have to say it.  Physically punishing or yelling at your dog or cat for his or her fear behaviors will likely make your pet more anxious and reinforce his/her fears.

Redirect your pet’s attention.

Try redirecting your pet’s attention to fun activities that he/she enjoys – obedience exercises, agility, food puzzle toys, etc.  For some pets with mild anxiety, his or her desire to participate in these activities may be an effective distraction during a noise event.

 

Dress your pet in a Thundershirt.

Thundershirts, made for both dogs and cats, are snug-fitting shirts for your pet designed to help calm your pet during stressful events.  Effectiveness for treating anxiety varies, but we’ve seen great results for some of our patients.

 

Consult your veterinarian about medications that can help your pet.

While some pet owners do not want to resort to drug therapy, the repercussions of allowing your pet to suffer severe anxiety caused by noise can be detrimental to his or her health.  We want to stress that noise-induced anxiety often worsens over time if left untreated and there can be serious physiological effects.  The decision to utilize drugs to treat your pet should only be made with the advice of your veterinarian.

Ask us about Sileo® – a NEW oromucosal medication for noise anxiety.

Family Pet now carries a new medication, Sileo®, for dogs that is the first and only FDA-approved treatment indicated for canine noise aversion. Your pet’s veterinarian at Family Pet Animal Hospital will determine if and which medications are appropriate for your pet’s needs.

The American Humane Association states that July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters.  July 4th fireworks send many pets fleeing in fear and many are found miles from their homes, disoriented and exhausted.  When you can anticipate anxiety-inducing noise events and manage the situation from the start, you will likely see better results.  So plan ahead and be prepared!  Call us to schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian if you’d like more information on how to help ease your pet’s distress and suffering due to noise aversion.

 

 

Sources:

“Help Dogs during Thunder & Fireworks – Vet Med at Illinois.” University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 June 2016. http://vetmed.illinois.edu/help-noise-averse-dogs-thunder-firework-season/=

“Holiday Issues.” Holiday Issues. American Humane Association, n.d. Web. 16 June 2016. http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/adoption-pet-care/issues-information/holiday-issues.html

 

“Thunderstorm Phobias in Dogs.” Pet Health & Nutrition Information & Questions. PetMD., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.  http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/behavioral/c_dg_thunderstorm_phobias