Does your dog cower or tremble in fear when they hear loud noises? Does the sound of thunder, fireworks, gun shots or any other similar sounds cause your dog to not want to leave your side? If you answer yes to these questions, then it is likely that your dog is suffering from noise aversion. Noise aversion is associated with anxiety and fear based behaviors related to loud noises. Noise aversion can be of concern when dogs exhibit destructive behaviors. Are some dogs prone to noise aversion? When should you treat noise aversion? What are the options for dealing with noise aversion.? Can it be prevented?
What are the signs of noise aversion?
As mentioned in the introduction noise aversion is manifested by exaggerated response to loud noises. Responses may include trembling, vocalizing, destructive behavior, inappropriate elimination, or even aggression. Dogs may also be especially clingy to their owners.
Are some dogs prone to noise aversion?
While there can be multiple factors that contribute to noise aversion in dogs, dogs that seem most predisposed are dogs that are generally anxious. Here are characteristics that your dog may exhibit that may indicate development of noise aversion.
- If your puppy seems reserved or nervous during their first veterinary visit.
- Dogs that show signs of separation anxiety which may include vocalization or destructive behavior.
- Dogs that are extremely nervous or aggressive around unfamiliar people.
- Dogs that exhibit submissive urination when they are scared, nervous, or around unfamiliar surroundings
Also if a dog experiences something traumatic associated with a specific sound, they can develop noise aversion.
When should you treat noise aversion?
While many dogs can experience some form of noise aversion, not every dog will have to be treated for it. Treatment will depend on how severe the signs are and if it is easy to medicate them. Also you should consider the potential side effects of the treatments available. You may need to consider treatment in dogs who are causing destruction to property or causing damage to themselves whether it is due to excessive barking or scratching. Even dogs that exhibit extreme anxiety without destructive behavior should be considered as well. Dogs who have chronic anxiety from noise aversion can also develop other behavioral issues.
Treatment options for Noise Aversion
The best options for treating noise aversion in your dogs will depend on how severe the symptoms are. I recommend trying treatment that doesn’t involve drugs first to see if it’s effective. Dogs with severe signs will not likely respond to drug free therapy and will most likely need to be prescribed an anti-anxiety drug
Dog Appeasing Pheromones: Dog appeasing pheromones in the product Adaptil are a great first option to try for dogs suffering from anxiety. It comes as a collar and a plug in diffuser which releases this pheromone. The dog appeasing pheromone can be effective in some dogs. In my experience this is most successful in mild conditions of noise aversion.
Thundershirts: Thundershirts are an apparel that acts as a swaddle for dogs by applying gentle constant pressure to them. It can provide a calming effect in some dogs scared of thunder and fireworks. These may work best in dogs who respond to loud noises by being clingy.
All natural products: There are a few products on the market as treats that contain natural herbs and other nutrients that may have a calming effect on dogs . One product I have used that helps in some cases of noise aversion is a product called Composure.
Behavior modification techniques.
Behavior modification is an attempt to desensitize pets to offending noises. This may involve replicating the offending sound through recordings while rewarding or applying positive interactions to remove the negative connation associated with them. Behavior modification techniques rarely work by themselves and may still need drug therapy. I also find that many owners find it challenging to be consistent regarding these techniques. These sound recordings are sometimes not the best substitute for the real thing, especially since sounds may come with associated vibrations and atmospheric changes that may not be accurately simulated with recordings. As a result though dogs may desensitize to recording, it doesn’t mean the same for the actual noise event.
Common drugs used to deal with noise aversion are mostly anti-anxiety medications. Many of these drugs are commonly used in humans as well. Drugs like Xanax, Prozac, and Elavil are commonly prescribed in severe cases of noise aversion. Acepromazine is also a common sedative used for dogs. Response to these drugs can vary depending on each individual dog. This is the same for the potential side effects these drugs may have. Some dogs may do well with these drugs while other may become really sedate or groggy which is undesirable for most pet owners.
Newer drug therapy
There is a newer drug made specifically for noise aversion that uses a low dose of a common sedative used by veterinarians. Sileo is a paste that has an active ingredient called Dexdomitor that can be applied to the gums of dogs. It is then absorbed through the gums providing a calming effect for several hours. This may be a good option when loud noise events can be easily predicted such as during July 4th fireworks and upcoming thunderstorms.
As you can see there are quite a few options to deal with noise aversion in your dog. I would recommend no matter how severe the signs are you try drug-free options first for treatment. If those don’t work then consult with your veterinarian what would be the best way to help your dog.