Firework season is fast approaching.
Does your furry friend run and hide like the world is ending every time she hears a bottle rocket explode in the distance? Does she quake in fear at every clap of thunder or mysterious electronic beep? She may be suffering from noise phobia.
Sensitivity to noise is unfortunately very common in dogs of all ages and can be generalized or specific to certain noises, such as fireworks, engine noises, banging doors, vacuum cleaners, loud voices or gun shots (to list a few).
A dog may be born with a genetic predisposition for noise sensitivity or may develop this aversion at any life stage from a traumatic experience, social transmission (learned from other fearful dogs), or even their owner’s responses to a particular noise.
It’s worth noting that not all pets with a sensitivity to noises are severely affected enough to be diagnosed as truly noise phobic, so it’s important to discuss your pet’s noise aversion with your veterinarian to further explore this. A truly noise phobic pup will show intense panic, often characterized by pacing, panting, trembling, drooling excessively, hiding, attention seeking or even trying to escape.
You may see your pet show her fear by cowering with flattened ears, wide eyes, tensed muscles and a tucked tail. She may become restless or immobilized by her fear. She may cling to you or run away to hide or even become destructive, scratching and tearing up objects in your home.
Many noise phobias can be managed successfully with a combination of environmental management, behavioral modification and medication. Wherever your pet falls on the spectrum of noise sensitivity and phobia, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about how best to support her and work through her noise aversion together.
Often, this treatment protocol will include desensitization and counterconditioning to the noise(s) your pet reacts to, teaching her that good things happen when those otherwise scary noises appear. Depending on the nature and degree of the noise sensitivity, other elements of training come into play as well, such as creating a safe space where exposure to the noise is limited and calming fun activities are introduced to redirect her attention, perhaps even placing cotton balls into her ears to block out the noise.
It is important not to punish your pet’s fearful behaviors, as this can exacerbate them by making her yet more fearful. She is more likely to associate your anger and frustration with the presence of the noise itself than her reaction to it.
There are natural calming agents such as pheromones (Adaptil) and supplements that can be excellent first choices for relaxing your pet. For more extreme cases of noise phobia, your veterinarian may also prescribe a relaxing medication to help keep her calm when she is exposed to those scary noises.
Although noise phobias are unfortunately very common in our pets, we have many excellent options to keep them comfortable and help them learn that fireworks exploding in the distant skies don’t have to mean the world is coming to an end, after all.