It’s early morning, and you go to let the dog outside, but he’s nowhere to be found. The cat isn’t at her normal station beside the can opener. Where is everyone?
The backyard is empty, but the air is acrid and smoky. You recognize the scent of used fireworks.
It is July 5th.
You search the house, and see a pair of sad brown eyes peeking out from under the guest bed. Beside your cowering dog is a pool of urine, and a wide path of scratches on the hardwood from their desperate digging. A soft mewing also is audible from behind the closet door.
“I’m so sorry, guys,” you whisper. “I wish you weren’t so scared.”
Noise aversion in pets
Nearly 70% of the pet population suffers from a condition called noise aversion, characterized by anxiety, fear, and intense reactions to loud noises. Noise aversion is most noticeable during large sound events, such as fireworks and thunderstorms, but can affect pets on a daily level. When ignored, the condition can worsen as the pet gets increasingly sensitive to trigger sounds.
You could easily assume that noise aversion is something pets should simply endure—especially only a few times per year—but the trauma of noise aversion can equal a panic attack. Since noise anxiety can progress to generalized anxiety, or separation anxiety, Dr. K’s Pet Clinic recommends exploring the following management and treatment options to help quiet the storm.
How to recognize noise aversion in your pet
Many noise aversion signs are undeniable. Panic and terror are seen in many species, but the following subtle signs can also indicate that your pet is suffering, albeit in silence
- Lip licking
- Restlessness and pacing
- Needless scratching (i.e., displacement behavior)
- Repeated yawning
- Loss of appetite
- Disinterest in play or social interaction
- Sudden escape from the environment
- Sudden avoidance of certain home or neighborhood areas
- Refusal to go outside
- Isolating themselves or sleeping in strange places
- An exaggerated “startle” response
- Panting or drooling
- Dilated pupils, or visible whites of the eye
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Destructive behavior (e.g., digging and chewing)
- Vocalizing (i.e., mewing, yowling, whining, or barking)
- Hypersensitivity (e.g., your pet originally reacted to thunderstorms, but now they hide when you clap your hands)
Many of these signs and behaviors correspond with other medical conditions. If you suspect noise aversion in your pet, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a full physical examination. Some conditions can cause hypersensitivity to stimuli that mimic noise aversion. If your veterinarian diagnoses noise aversion, they may prescribe medications, supplements, or therapies to help your pet.
Safe from sound: A guide to creating a calmer July Fourth
Watching pets struggle with anxiety and fear is heartbreaking. They cannot understand that July Fourth traditions are harmless, or that a summer storm will eventually pass. Help them by doing the following:
- Never take your pet to a fireworks display, and keep them indoors if fireworks are occurring in your neighborhood.
- Close all windows, doors, and gates, and ensure your pet is wearing a collar and identification at all times. Many pets go missing during July Fourth festivities.
- Plan the potty breaks. Take your dog outside before you expect fireworks to begin.
- Create a quiet space for your pet during the holiday. A back room or a familiar crate can be a welcome retreat from a noisy party. This will also be your pet’s sanctuary before, during, and after fireworks.
- Turn on the television, or play gentle music or a white noise app to muffle outside sounds. A long-lasting food-stuffed toy or food puzzle can be a welcome distraction.
- Stick to your pet’s normal routine as much as possible. For dogs, extra exercise might help when the evening festivities begin.
- Do not feed table scraps. Barbecues and block parties are full of tantalizing options, but resist the temptation to bring home a doggie bag. The excitement of a holiday combined with unusual foods can be a recipe for gastrointestinal upset.
- Take out the trash. July Fourth is a common time for nosy pets to get into the trash and consume greasy leftovers and bones. Eating cooked bones can lead to choking, perforation of the stomach or intestines, and blockages requiring emergency surgery.
- Heed the heat, and take hot-weather precautions. Never leave a pet in a parked car. Limit outdoor activities to cooler mornings and evenings when possible. Learn heatstroke and heat exhaustion signs. Ensure fresh, clean water and shade are always available.
- Ask your veterinarian if you should conduct a trial run with prescription anxiety medication for your pet before any major events, to check its efficacy and any effects. Follow all prescription instructions carefully.
Recognizing noise aversion and July Fourth’s unique challenges allows insight into a pet’s emotional world. With careful planning and the help of Dr. K’s Pet Clinic, pets and owners can find relief and peace of mind—and no one needs to hide under the bed. Give us a call today.