A sudden clap of thunder, firecrackers or yelling can cause a surprised reaction and instinctive desire to hide for any pet. When that reaction becomes a persistent and profound fear to loud sounds causing severe anxiety and unwanted behaviors, your dog may have a noise phobia.
The extreme reaction to noises usually gets worse if left untreated and can also lead to separation anxiety. The fears are real and should not be punished—yelling and punishment will only add to the anxiety.
It’s important to see your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has developed a noise phobia or separation anxiety to rule out possible medical problems and discuss ways to manage these conditions.
Signs your pet may have a noise phobia include:
• Excessive drooling/panting
• Uncontrolled urination/defecation
• Destructive behaviors such as chewing and scratching
• Loss of appetite
• Frantic attempt to escape such as running away or jumping through windows
This condition is the result of part genetics and part learned behavior. Herding breeds such as German/Australian Shepard, Border Collie, Shetland/Old English Sheepdog and Pembroke Welsh Corgi most commonly experience this phobia, possibly due to having acute hearing.
Thunderstorms and fireworks are the most common causes of a pet noise phobia but other loud sounds can include:
• Garbage truck/road noise
• Breaking glass
• Rattling pots and pans
• Lawn mower or vacuum
• Door slamming
• Wind noise/wind chimes
• Musical instruments
Management and treatment for noise phobias
• Provide a safe area such as a crate or dark, quiet room where the dog can feel secure. Only use a crate if the dog is crate trained.
• Play soft music or create white noise with a fan or appliance to override the stress-inducing noise
• Apply light pressure to the body by leaning gently against the dog, massage techniques, wrapping in a blanket, or using specially-designed pressure wraps and clothing like a Thundershirt.
• In the case of fireworks, it’s best not to bring your pet to a fireworks display since frightened pets can react with unexpected or abnormal behaviors.
• Aromatherapy and calming pheromones
This type of treatment includes desensitization or counter-conditioning. The phobic response can increase in intensity with each exposure to what’s causing the fear without proper treatment. It’s best to consult with a training or behavior modification professional before starting either type of program.
Medications including anti-anxiety, anti-depressants and tranquilizers could be considered for treatment as part of an overall management plan.
Be sure to let anyone who is taking care of your dog in your absence—such as a family member, neighbor or pet resort—know about your dog’s noise phobia so your pet continues to feel safe and happy wherever they go. If you have any questions about your dog’s unwanted behaviors, call Holiday House Pet Resort at 215-345-6960 to schedule a training evaluation or exam and consultation with one of our veterinarians at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital.