Our pets are blessed with a highly developed sense of hearing which helps them perform natural behaviors, like hunting, stalking, and tending to their young. However, this sensitivity, while helpful in many cases, can also be detrimental during holidays like the Fourth of July.
Noises come in a variety of forms. Ever notice how Mittens runs for cover every time the vacuum comes out? How about when Spot freaks out at the sound of a loud thunder clap? Noise aversion is common among many, if not most, animals. For some, this natural aversion can turn into a full blown phobia.
Because summertime ballgames, festive holidays, and backyard parties will happen no matter what, the best way to help your pet cope with noise anxiety is through understanding, awareness, and prevention.
What is Noise Anxiety?
Noise anxiety is an overreaction to loud or abrupt noises and can occur suddenly or become chronic and progressive, such as with a phobia. Common sources of noise anxiety among dogs and cats include:
- Gun shots
- Car backfire
- Construction noise
- Traffic noise
- Appliances (e.g., vacuum cleaners and weed wackers)
Depending on the level of anxiety, your pet may experience some of the following reactions to loud noises:
- Attempts to escape
- Changes in body posture, such as cowering
- Restlessness and hypervigilance
- Uncontrolled urination/defecation
Depending on your pet’s level of fear, he or she can be at risk of escaping and becoming lost. In fact, missing pet reports peak during holidays such as the Fourth of July. When a pet escapes, he or she is subject to dangers such as other animals and wildlife attacks, illnesses, and being hit by a car. While we recommend microchipping for all pets, it’s absolutely crucial for pets who suffer from noise anxiety or other behavior problems.
Although cats are prone to general fear of noise (and will often seek a hiding place), dogs can actually be genetically predisposed to noise anxiety. For example, if your dog’s parent had this aversion, he or she is also more likely to have it. Breed can play a role as well, with herding breeds being more likely to develop noise aversion. This may be because they are bred to be hypervigilant in their “job” protecting livestock.
Helping Your Pet Through Noisy Events
If your pet has any discomfort with loud noises (and most do), it’s best to keep your pet at home with a trusted friend or family member during the noisy event. Even if you think your pet will just LOVE the parade, all the crowds and noise may not be worth the risk.
Some ways to help sooth a pet with noise anxiety include:
- Provide your pet with a secure, quiet space, and minimize outside noise by playing soft music, a white noise machine, or the television.
- Entice your pet with positive distractions like a few favorite treats or new toys.
- Purchase a product like the Thundershirt, which has been effective in reducing fear.
- Medications can be helpful for pets with more severe anxiety, including SILEO, a new gel-based medication that calms rather than sedates (contact us for more information).
- Long-term or chronic noise anxiety can take a toll on health, safety, and wellbeing. Please speak with us about behavior medication and desensitization, as well as other methods of intervention.
We hope you and your sweet pet enjoy a quiet, cozy Fourth of July together. If that’s not a possibility, we know your pet will prefer to be safe and sound indoors with a loved one. Please call us with any questions. Have a happy Fourth of July!
The post Fourth of July Fears: How to Help a Pet With Noise Anxiety appeared first on West Park Animal Hospital Blog.