Does your dog cower in fear at the sound of Fourth of July fireworks? Or does your cat have accidents around the house when there is loud construction outside your house?
What is noise aversion?
Animals that tremble, try to hide, or vocalize in response to loud noises may have “noise aversion.” Noise aversion is a common behavioral concern that affects 17% - 49% of dogs. This includes fear of fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots, vacuum cleaners etc.
Common clinical signs of noise aversion include trembling, barking, destructive activity and hiding. Some are more subtle such as panting, lip licking or yawning. In comparison, cats often respond to fear with a heightened 'fight or flight' mechanism. Cats tend to respond to stressful situations by hiding or inappropriate litter box use.
You should consult your veterinarian if you notice a sudden change in your pet’s behavior. Your cat suddenly hiding under the bed or your dog unexpectedly pacing may indicate fear, pain, or an underlying medical condition. You and your veterinarian can work together to come up with a plan to alleviate your pet’s stress levels.
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss medications to help with noise aversions. We can recommend anti-anxiety or sedation medications that would work best for your individual animal.
Training that involves pairing the fearful noise with a favorite treat is a beneficial long-term intervention plan. For example, you can play a soundtrack of fireworks (starting at a very low volume) starting several weeks or months before the Fourth of July.
Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs) may provide a calming effect during stressful situations.
It is important to have a safe place that your pet can retreat to during the fearful noises. The safe place can be a quiet bedroom that is away from loud noises. Many veterinary behaviorists recommend the ThunderShirt or Storm Defender Cape to make dogs feel more secure.
Written by Stephanie Lo, Summer Work Experience Student at Pinole Pet Hospital