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FAQs About Noise Aversion in Pets

Noise aversion in pets is more complicated than a simple fear of a sound—the problem can lead to serious mental and physical health issues and can also damage the bond between pets and their families. Early intervention is key to halting progression in noise-averse pets, so take the time to learn about this serious behavioral issue and help your four-legged friend face their fear of loud sounds. 

To ensure affected pets get the help they need, our Village Veterinary Hospital team answers common questions about noise aversion. 

Question: What is noise aversion in pets?

Answer: Noise aversion is an exaggerated or excessive fearful response to loud, startling, or repetitive sounds. This condition affects at least two-thirds of dogs, and likely also a large portion of the feline population. Despite being a common condition in pets, noise aversion often goes undiagnosed, because pet owners think anxiety during thunderstorms and other loud events is normal, and do not mention the phobia to their veterinarian.

Q: How does noise aversion develop in pets?

A: Noise aversion can develop in any pet, although certain factors can increase a pet’s risk. For example, herding breeds, like border collies, are more likely to develop noise aversion than hunting breeds, like German shorthaired pointers. 

Pets whose socialization during their developmental period was inadequate are also more likely to become scared of loud noises. If your pet was not positively exposed to vacuums, thunder, or fireworks during the first few months, they may develop noise aversion. Past negative experiences of a loud sound can also precipitate noise aversion development.

Noise aversion also has a hereditary component, since nervous mothers can pass anxiety issues to their offspring. For example, a stray mother dog who has been shot at naturally will develop an intense fear of gunshot sounds. This fear can be passed on to her puppies, who may develop other anxieties, such as separation or generalized anxiety.

Q: What sounds commonly scare pets?

A: Any loud or sudden noise has the potential to scare a pet. Sounds that most often provoke fear in pets include:

  • Thunderstorms
  • Fireworks
  • Construction
  • Heavy traffic
  • Gunshots
  • Yelling children
  • Loud TV or radio
  • Alarms
  • Vacuum
  • Garbage disposal
  • Doorbell

Many sounds can startle your pet, but they are considered noise-averse when their response becomes a drawn-out, exaggerated event.  For example, if your pet jumps when you slam the door suddenly, but returns to whatever they were doing, that is considered a normal response. If they tremble and cower and cling to your side for a lengthy period of time after a loud noise, they likely have noise aversion.

Q: How will I know if my pet has noise aversion?

A: Beginning noise aversion stages can be difficult to detect in pets, as cues may be very subtle. To pick up on noise aversion in your pet, watch their behavior after a loud sound. Common noise aversion signs in pets include:

  • Hard panting
  • Heavy drooling
  • Whining, whimpering, or howling
  • Excessive meowing or barking
  • Trembling
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Hiding
  • Widened eyes
  • Tucked tail
  • Raised fur
  • Flattened ears
  • Hyperalertness
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Chewing, digging, or scratching to escape

Q: How can I manage my pet’s noise aversion?

A: Although noise aversion can take a serious toll on your pet’s emotional health and wellbeing, you can help to reduce their fear by:

  • Limiting exposure — If you know a loud event is going to occur, keep your pet away, or set up a quiet retreat. For example, keep your pet occupied in a different room of the house with a long-lasting treat while you vacuum, or provide a soundproofed sanctuary when thunder strikes.
  • Using calming aids — A wide variety of calming products that can help soothe your pet’s anxiety are available. Chewable supplements, compression wraps, pet-specific music, and pheromone devices are designed to calm pets, and work in combination with a multimodal management plan.
  • Implementing behavioral modification techniques — When used together, systematic desensitization and counterconditioning work to change your pet’s reaction to scary sound using positive associations. By rewarding your pet for staying calm while you play a soundtrack of their trigger at a low volume, you could create a shift in their mindset.

Q: What should I do if my pet is still fearful of loud noises, despite these suggestions?

A: Without effective intervention, noise aversion will continue to worsen, and can lead to your pet harming themselves or destroying your home. Before that happens, in addition to the calming measures you try at home, your pet may need anti-anxiety medication to learn not to be afraid. By decreasing their anxiety with medication, behavioral modification and at-home calming techniques will be much more effective in your pet. Anti-anxiety medications are typically administered as-needed for loud events like thunderstorms and fireworks, but drugs that can be used on a more long-term basis are also available.

Don’t feel guilty or ashamed if your pet experiences anxiety around loud sounds. Neither you or your pet have done anything wrong. Give our Village Veterinary Hospital team a call to schedule a behavioral consultation to manage your furry pal’s noise aversion.

By |2023-06-30T02:05:22+00:00July 1st, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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