Petrified Pups and Frightened Felines

When a person has fear and anxiety they want to overcome, they can work with a professional to get to the root of the problem, address challenges, and make positive changes. Unfortunately, your sweet pet does not have this luxury, and they rely on you to identify and soothe their fears, which is a difficult task when you don’t speak the same language. Approximately 67% of dogs and many cats in the United States suffer from noise aversion, but the condition largely goes undiagnosed, leaving many pets to suffer in silence. The fear and anxiety an affected pet experiences when they are triggered is similar to a human’s panic attack. You can’t eliminate noise from your pet’s life, but you can help them cope with their fear of loud sounds. Our Ambleside Animal Hospitalteam explains this common condition and how to manage your four-legged friend’s unnecessary stress.

What is noise aversion in pets?

A pet with noise aversion experiences fear or anxiety in response to particular sounds. Fireworks and thunderstorms cause fear in many pets, but these noisy events aren’t the only offenders. Pets who are sensitive to one sound or loud event generally fear other unsettling noises, which can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Noise-averse pets can be triggered by the following common everyday sounds:

  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Construction work
  • Heavy traffic
  • Hair dryers
  • Laundry appliances
  • Shrieking children
  • Yelling adults
  • Loud TVs or radios

What causes noise aversion in pets?

Veterinarians do not fully understand noise aversion’s cause. However, your pet may be sensitive to loud sounds because of the following factors:

  • Genetics — Some dogs from the herding breeds, such as border collies, may have an inherent sensitivity (i.e., a genetic predisposition) to noise. Hunting dogs are bred to be unbothered by loud sounds, so they are typically less likely to react to loud noises such as gunfire.
  • Lack of socialization — The socialization period for puppies and kittens occurs during their first few months of life, the best time to help shape their world outlook most effectively. If your pet was not exposed to unfamiliar sights and sounds when they were extremely young, your furry pal may develop a noise aversion.
  • Past negative associations — Past experiences can also play a role in noise aversion development. A pet that has had a traumatic experience they associate with loud noises, such as being trapped during a thunderstorm or being near an explosion, is more likely to develop noise aversion to these and other sounds.

What are the signs of noise aversion in pets?

Pets with noise aversion may exhibit a range of behaviors, depending on their condition’s severity. While a pet who suffers from generalized anxiety may at any time exhibit panic signs, a pet with noise sensitivity will demonstrate anxiety signs during or after a loud event. If your pet has a noise aversion, they may exhibit these signs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pacing or restless behavior
  • Shaking, trembling, shivering
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Vocalizing
  • Hiding
  • House soiling
  • Attempted escape
  • Destructive behavior (e.g., chewing, digging, especially near windows and doors)

How can noise aversion be managed in pets?

Taking steps to manage your pet’s noise aversion through medication, environmental management, and training can help reduce their fear and keep them calm throughout a noisy event. Follow these tips to help mitigate your pet’s fear:

  • Ask your veterinarian about medication — Anti-anxiety medications can help calm your pet without sedating them, and can be beneficial for pets with any degree of noise aversion. Your veterinarian will determine the best medication for your pet, which should be administered before the anxiety-triggering event.
  • Limit your pet’s exposure — Everyday loud noises are unavoidable, but you can limit your pet’s exposure by creating a safe and comfortable environment to which they can retreat during a loud event, such as a quiet, windowless, interior room. Make the area as comfortable as possible by providing a bed, toys, and treats.
  • Calming pheromones — For additional calming support, provide your pet with a collar or diffuser that emits soothing pheromones to keep their anxiety at a manageable level.
  • Dress your pet in a calming vest — A calming vest’s gentle, constant pressure helps alleviate your pet’s anxiety. Putting the garment on your pet before a noisy event starts is best.

While noise aversion cannot be cured, these proactive strategies can help keep your noise-averse pet calm and relaxed when their sound triggers are unavoidable. If you have questions about managing your pet’s noise aversion, schedule an appointment with our Ambleside Animal Hospital team.