Many pets—and people—aren’t big fans of certain noises. Thunderstorms, jack hammers, or loud cars can cause tension or stress in sound-sensitive pets. But, when mild symptoms turn into full-blown panic, your pet’s quality of life—and yours—are impacted. To better understand noise aversions and phobias, the team at Metropet Veterinary Clinic offers the following expert tips.
Understanding noise aversions in pets
An aversion can be described as “a feeling of repugnance toward something with a desire to avoid or turn from it.” In pets, a noise aversion is associated with more than a dislike for particular sounds—a physical reaction or set of reactions to a stimulus that moves beyond the normal fear threshold is involved. You may be tempted to brush off your pet’s noise sensitivity as a normal reaction, which can sometimes be the case, such as a loud noise that immediately follows a quick or jerky movement. However, when your pet hides under the bed, shakes or cowers in the corner, or paces for an hour following their initial response, you may have a noise-averse pet on your hands.
Since no two pets are alike, noise aversion signs will vary, depending on phobia severity, the offending stimulus, and your pet’s individual history. Common severe noise aversion signs include pacing, drooling, panting, hiding, shaking or trembling, loss of bowel or urinary control, vocalization, destructive behaviors, or escape attempts. While you may not be able to pinpoint an exact cause, noise-averse pets often have a history of a traumatic event that occurred concurrently with a noise trigger. Noise phobias typically begin with mild signs that often go undetected, and pet owners seek veterinary intervention only when the signs worsen and become obvious. Unfortunately, successfully curing a noise-averse pet becomes more difficult as their signs become more severe, leading to a reduced quality of life for your pet, and a fractured pet-owner bond.
Managing a noise phobic pet—what are the options?
Diagnosing noise aversion in pets early is paramount for successful treatment, at best—or preventing the problem from worsening, at a minimum. Fortunately, a variety of tools are available for anxiety-related conditions in dogs and cats, including behavioral therapies, pharmaceuticals, and medications. Our MetroPet Veterinary Clinic veterinarian may recommend some of the following:
- Behavioral therapy — Behavior modification can help your pet to be less fearful of loud noises using various techniques:
- Create a safe place — If you know when to expect the noises that affect your pet (e.g., July Fourth), prepare them by creating a quiet, safe, comfortable area ahead of time.
- Reduce the outside noise — Try the counter-conditioning method. In the safe room, play some white noise or soothing music to help drown the outside noises. Do not completely mask, but rather muffle, the noise, so that your pet makes a positive association. Over time, you can decrease the inside noise and allow your pet to gradually hear the unpleasant sound more clearly, always rewarding them for staying calm. Eventually, your pet should tolerate the offending noise.
- Act normally — You should also try not reacting to any loud noise yourself, and not doting on your pet. This prevents your pet from associating your reaction as a reward for their phobic behavior.
- Stay calm — Your pet picks up on your reaction, so if you stay calm, that will help them stay calm, too.
- Anti-anxiety products — Many products are available to help pets with noise phobias and other anxiety disorders. Compression shirts or wraps gently pressure your pet’s body and help calm them. Pheromone sprays, diffusers, and collars have a naturally calming scent that only your pet can smell.
- Nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals — Thanks to advancements in veterinary medicine, various supplements and medications are now available to help alleviate pet stress. However, many of these products are not yet regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so always consult your veterinarian before administering any over-the-counter or prescription product to your pet, because of potential drug interactions, and because many human products are toxic to pets.
Our veterinary team at MetroPet Veterinary Clinic is dedicated to helping your pet achieve a phobia-free life. Contact us today to set up a consultation, so we can determine the calming products or methods that will best help your pet.
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