Noise aversion is a fearful reaction to noise. It is stressful for your dog — and is likely also stressful for you. Your dog could be suffering in silence. The good news is that here at Pets First Animal Hospitals, we have at-home remedies and medications that can help your pet in time for Thunderstorm Season.
Fears and phobias can develop from a single experience (one event learning) or from continued exposure to the fearful stimulus. Although some dogs react with a mild fear response of panting and pacing, others get extremely agitated and may panic and/or become destructive. These dogs are experiencing a phobic response to the stimulus. These phobias may develop because of an inherent sensitivity to the stimulus (i.e., a genetic predisposition) or exposure to a highly traumatic experience associated with the stimulus (e.g., a carport collapsing on the dog in a windstorm). With multiple exposures to a fearful event, a dog may become more intensely reactive; receiving attention or affection by well-meaning owners who are trying to calm the dog down may actually intensify the response.
First, look for the signs. Does your dog react to loud noises (fireworks, thunder, construction noise or street noise) with any of the following behaviors?
- Trembling or shaking
- Pacing or restlessness
- Lip licking
- Refuses to eat
- Vocalizing (whining or barking at the sounds)
- Brow furrowed and ears back
- Owner seeking behavior and abnormal clinginess
- Freezing or immobility
Modifying Your Pet’s Environment:
- Restrict or minimize exposure to noises that cause your dog to be afraid.
- Play music to mask noises that scare your dog. Classical music has been shown to be calming for some dogs.
- During fireworks, close the curtains and keep the room brightly lit to limit visual stimulation.
- Provide a safe den for your pet. Many dogs like to go somewhere dark and cozy when scared. Provide a sound-proof room or den, set up with a comfy bed, some toys, and preferably some distracting noise such as the radio or TV.
- Be present: your presence itself is comforting to your dog.
- Act normal: for example, play with your dog, read a book or watch TV, regardless of the noise.
Actions to avoid:
- Never punish your dog for having accidents indoors or damaging property during noise events. It makes your dog even more afraid of the noise. And remember, dogs are acting out of fear, not misbehaving.
- Avoid telling your dog that “It’s OK” or petting your dog during noise events. For example:
- When you say, “It’s OK,” your dog hears that it is “OK” to pace, pant or bark during the noise event.
- Petting your dog sends a similar message as saying “It’s OK”.
At Home Remedies:
- Composure Pro Treats – Composure Treats provide a calming effect to support a relaxed state without causing drowsiness or impaired motor skills.
- The Adaptil diffuser plug-ins can be used to great effect with anxious dogs. It works by releasing pheromones that remind your dog and cat of their safety.
- Thunder shirts are like a big warm hug of comfort. Your dog I can feel reassured by the compression of dog shirt.
For dogs that are excessively fearful, phobic, or anxious, drugs might be helpful to reduce the state of anxiety and help the dog more quickly cope with the situation. While drugs may reduce anxiety in general, behavior modification is needed to help the dog adapt to the specific stimuli that are leading to the fear. Anti-anxiety drugs such as the benzodiazepines might work for situational anxieties since they take a very short time to reach efficacy and wear off fairly quickly. There is also a new FDA approved product made specifically for noise aversion called Sileo. Sileo is an oromucosal gel formulation of dexmedetomidine hydrochloride provided in a 3 ml syringe. Sileo can be administered at home an hour or two before a storm. The great part about this medication is that your pet remains calm, yet fully functional.
Please visit our Pet Library on our website to find more information on dogs with noise aversion. Call us today to set up a anxiety and noise aversion consultation at either Pets First Hospitals location.
Let us how help your pet have a Fear-Free Thunderstorm Season and Fourth Of July Experience!