If your pet scrambles into your lap or ducks into a closet for cover when faced with a loud noise, they may be suffering from noise aversion. This common fear plagues many pets, and can affect them on greatly different levels. Read on to discover if your pet truly has a noise aversion, and how you can manage the problem at home.

What is noise aversion in pets?

Most animals will startle at a sudden loud noise, but then go back to what they were originally doing. Pets with noise aversion display much more dramatic responses to loud sounds, and can take much longer to recover. Noise aversion appears more common in dogs than cats, affecting more than one-third of dogs, but often goes largely undiagnosed. Many pet owners may not realize their pet is actually suffering when they display fear and anxiety during loud noises, and fail to mention it to their veterinarian. Pet owners may also not realize that noise aversion is a treatable condition, so they believe there is no reason to discuss their pet’s sensitivity. 

However, the problem with fear, stress, and anxiety is that they can pose health and behavioral challenges. Pets with untreated noise aversion can experience permanent, damaging mental and emotional changes, so prompt intervention is vital for your pet’s well-being.

Why do some pets develop noise aversion?

Some pets are more likely to develop noise aversion than others. In many cases, the offspring of a mother cat or dog who was stressed or anxious while pregnant will be more prone to anxiety, especially when faced with new situations. Certain breeds can also display noise aversion tendencies. Herding breeds may be more fearful, while hunting dogs are generally more capable of handling loud noises. However, noise aversion can develop in any pet at any age. You may notice that your own pet has developed a noise aversion after a stressful experience associated with a loud noise, or because they had never before been exposed to that particular sound. Noise aversion typically worsens over time, because pets cannot acclimate to the sound.

What are noise aversion signs in pets?

Noise aversion signs can vary widely among pets, and especially among cats and dogs. Generally, noise aversion appears as anxiety signs during or after a loud event. Common signs include:

  • Heavy panting 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Yawning
  • Drooling
  • Whining, barking, meowing, or howling
  • Excessive shedding
  • Pacing
  • Hiding
  • Digging or escaping
  • Inappropriate urination or defecation
  • Destructive behaviors

If you notice these signs in your pet, paired with a startling noise, they may have noise aversion rather than generalized anxiety.

What are common noise aversion triggers in pets?

When people hear of noise aversion in pets, they typically think of fireworks and thunderstorms. While these two situations are among the loudest and most frightening experiences for pets, noise aversion can be associated with many everyday situations and items, including:

  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Backfiring cars
  • Shrieking children
  • Loud TVs or radios
  • Construction sounds
  • Hair dryers
  • Laundry appliances
  • Clanging pots and pans
  • Raised voices

Essentially, any loud noise can trigger an anxiety attack in a pet who has noise aversion.

How can I manage my pet’s noise aversion at home?

Taking the appropriate steps to ease your pet’s anxiety at home can help manage their noise aversion. Try the following tactics to reduce your furry pal’s fear of loud noises:

  • Create a soundproof haven for your pet — Your pet may naturally seek a quiet, dark spot when faced with a thunderstorm or fireworks display. Create a haven designed especially for them in the most soundproof room of your home, such as a closet, spare bedroom, or basement. Furnish the safe retreat with a cozy bed and their favorite toys. Encourage your pet to enter this safe spot on their own when they feel anxious or frightened. 
  • Distract your pet with long-lasting treats — A stuffed Kong will go a long way toward distracting your pet from alarming sounds. Rather than shutting your pet in their safe spot with a handful of soft treats, choose a treat that has staying power, like a dental chew or food puzzle, which will distract them for longer.

  • Use calming aids to soothe your pet — Numerous calming aids can help your pet relax when faced with a loud event. Plug in a diffuser that emits calming pheromones, swaddle your pet in a compression wrap, and play species-specific calming music to help alleviate anxiety.
  • Desensitize your pet to loud noises — Desensitize your pet by pairing loud noises with a positive experience. For example, play a thunderstorm or firework soundtrack at a low volume while you play with and pet your four-legged friend, and dole out treats for calm behavior. Repeat this exercise daily for several weeks, slowly increasing the volume. If you notice your pet displaying anxiety signs, lower the volume and proceed more slowly. 
  • Consult your Mill Creek Animal Hospital veterinarian — In moderate to severe noise aversion cases, especially those that deal with thunderstorms and fireworks, stressed pets may need pharmaceutical help. Anti-anxiety medications can help calm your pet and ease their fears, so they can get through a loud event without harming themself. Ask our veterinarians about the best options for your pet.

Does your pet hear loud noises and fly into a frenzy? Contact our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team for help with soothing your furry pal’s noise aversion.