Loud sounds can startle the most laidback of pets, especially when July Fourth fireworks and summer thunderstorms roll around. Some pets are more sensitive to noises, and can display stress, anxiety, and fear when exposed to everyday sounds that typically fade into the background. Commonly, pets who suffer from generalized anxiety or separation anxiety are more likely to also show fear of loud sounds. This fear is called noise aversion, and can be difficult to detect in pets who show only subtle signs. The Stone Ridge Pet Resort team answers your questions about noise aversion, so you can help your pet when they need to remain calm in the face of fireworks, storms, and other scary sounds.

Question: What triggered my pet’s noise aversion?

Answer: Pets can succumb to noise aversion because of a variety of sounds that probably would not come to mind when you wonder what would spur anxiety. Common noise aversion triggers include thunderstorms, fireworks, construction work, heavy traffic, shrill sounds, booming TV or radio noises, vacuum cleaners, and gunshots. Some pets, including herding breeds, pets with lack of exposure during their socialization, and puppies and kittens with fearful mothers, are predisposed to developing noise aversion. Hunting dogs and pets who were positively exposed to startling noises during their socialization period are less likely to develop the condition.

Q: What signs would my pet show if they have noise aversion?

A: Noise-averse pets can display a wide range of signs indicating fear, stress, and anxiety, and sometimes, these signs can be so subtle, they’re easily missed. If a thunderstorm rolls into your area, watch your pet for any of the following signs:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pacing
  • Inability to settle
  • Whining, whimpering, howling, and other vocalization
  • Clingy behavior
  • Hiding
  • Attempting to escape
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Destructive behavior

Many of these signs can be seen with pets who have separation anxiety, or generalized anxiety about their world. The difference can be determined by looking closely at the situation when your pet displays anxiety.

Q: Could my nervous pet have noise aversion, too?

A: A pet who is already nervous, and has separation anxiety or anxiety in certain situations, is more likely to also develop a noise aversion. Many anxious pets stay on high alert as they go about their day, and benign noises, like dropped keys, can cause them to panic. If your pet has already been diagnosed with anxiety of some form, watch for noise aversion signs when they are confronted with a loud noise.

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

A: Noise aversion should be managed as soon as your pet shows signs. Left untreated, the fear associated with noise aversion can cause long-term harm to your pet’s emotional state. If you anticipate a nearby noisy event, like a thunderstorm or fireworks display, prepare a safe spot where your pet can ride out the commotion. Use the following tips:

  • Swaddle your pet for security — Like calming a crying newborn, a swaddle can help soothe your pet by applying gentle compression to calming points. A popular pet compression wrap is a ThunderShirt, available for cats and dogs.
  • Diffuse calming pheromones — Pets are highly scent-sensitive, and species-specific pheromones can help change their mindset. Calming pheromones, such as Feliway and Adaptil, can be diffused into a pet’s safe room or spritzed on their bed to help soothe them.
  • Distract your pet with games, toys, and treats — Many pets are highly food- or toy-motivated, and playing a game, running through a training session, or a food puzzle can help distract them from the noise outside. 
  • Play soothing music — White noise or pet-specific calming music can help ease frazzled nerves, and block out thunderous booms. Try a soundtrack from iCalmPet to lull your pet into a calm state of mind.

Q: What can my Stone Ridge veterinarian do to help my pet’s noise aversion?

A: Pets who become so terrified during loud noise events, like July Fourth fireworks, can cause harm to themselves, their families, and their homes. These scared pets can benefit from anti-anxiety medications, although pets with milder noise aversion can also enjoy the calm that medications and supplements provide. Speak with your Stone Ridge veterinarian about possible anxiety-relieving prescriptions for your pet.

If your furry pal becomes anxious when faced with loud sounds, they may be suffering from noise aversion. Prepare your pet for July Fourth fireworks and summer thunderstorms by scheduling an appointment with one of our Stone Ridge Veterinary Medical Center veterinarians.