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Calming Noise Anxiety in Dogs & Cats

Does your dog dive for cover at the sound of fireworks? Does your cat climb the curtains when thunder strikes? Or perhaps they cower in fear every time you get out the vacuum cleaner. If so, you are not alone. Fear of noises is very common in pets, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t go untreated.

About noise anxiety

You may know that both dogs and cats can hear a wider range of frequencies than humans can. So, it is not so surprising perhaps that many animals develop a noise phobia. This is more than being scared or startled by a loud noise, but rather an ongoing or persistent fear that the noise they hear is a source of danger.

The most common triggers for noise anxiety are fireworks, thunderstorms, vacuum cleaners, and lawnmowers, though, in reality, any loud or unexpected noise can cause undesirable behavior in your pet.

Signs of noise anxiety include:

  • Crouching or cowering
  • Ears flat to the head, tail between the legs
  • Growling, whimpering, barking or yowling
  • Inappropriate urinating or defecating
  • Panting, drooling or licking lips
  • Destructive or aggressive behavior
  • Attempting to hide or escape

How to deal with noise phobia

There is no quick-fix for this kind of anxiety in dogs and cats, but there are still plenty of things you can do to make life easier for both you and your pet.

Create a safe space

Fears and anxieties will prompt the fight-or-flight response in animals. And if they opt for ‘flight’ they will need safe space to retreat to. This could be inside a wardrobe, under the bed, or in a corner of the basement. Take your pet’s lead as to where they like to hide when panic hits, and then endeavor to make the space as comfortable as possible by adding blankets, toys, and treats. Some cats like to get to high places when stressed, as it puts them above potential dangers, so consider proving a cat tree if this is the case.

Desensitizing and counter-conditioning

The behavioral modification takes time and patience from both you and your dog but has the potential to be a long-term solution, rather than a short-term fix. Desensitization is essential for getting your dog or cat more accustomed to loud noises so that they don’t react with surprise and fear. This is done by exposing them to short, controlled doses of the noise while engaging in calming techniques. Counter-conditioning is teaching your pet to associate the noise with positive experiences, such as toys or treats.

Anxiety support tools

There are plenty of medicated and natural options that can provide short-term support for your pet in times of acute stress. Among the more popular tools for noise anxiety, especially thunderstorms and fireworks, are anti-anxiety vests. These work by applying pressure to the torso, providing similar results as swaddling a baby, or hugging someone. For anxiety or stress in general, other options include pheromone sprays, calming chews, or even anti-anxiety medication.

Plan for the worst

If your pet has been known to hide or escape during these panic attacks, being prepared can prevent a short-term bout of stress causing longer term problems. Make sure your pet wears a collar with your phone number, and that they have been microchipped and their details are up to date. In the case where you might be out of the house when their trigger occurs, make sure they have access to their safe space, and that fences, gates and windows are secured.

Calming Noise Anxiety in Dogs & Cats

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