Pets and Loud Noises: How You Can Help
Thunderstorms, loud cars, fireworks, and other loud noises can be very starting for your pet. After a loud, unidentified sound, your pet might cower in a corner or squeeze under the couch out of fear, and remain in tight spaces for far too long. While some pets do not have a problem with loud noise, this can be a common anxious behavior in many pets. If you are wondering what you can do to help your pet, the team at Blue Valley Animal Hospital has a few tips for you.
Signs of Fear
There are many signs and symptoms that your pet is feeling fear and anxiety over loud noises. A dog may:
- Pace around
- Tuck their eyes back
- Tuck their tail between their legs
- Bark or whine
- Chew items in appropriately
- Run or bolt away from home
- Shake or hide
A cat may:
- Become excessively withdrawn
- Groom their fur excessively
If you know in advance that your pet may be exposed to loud noises for a short amount of time (a couple of hours), you may consult with your veterinarian for calming medications. There are also calming pet treats available at most pet stores that contain ingredients such as valerian or L-Tryptophan. Non-medication solutions might include a calming collar, calming pheromone sprays or plug-ins, or a “thundershirt,” which is a tight pressure shirt that applies a constant pressure that can help to comfort your pet.
Make sure to create a safe space for your pet if you know they’ll be exposed to loud noises. This doesn’t necessarily mean crating or confining them to a small space, as they may hurt themselves trying to escape. Instead, try to observe what your pet does and where they go when something startles them. Does your pet have a favorite spot on the couch or a cozy pet bed or cave that they retreat to? It can be helpful to sit with your pet in this safe space to help calm them down. Make sure to have their favorite toys available and provide plenty of attention. Feed them treats and use positive reinforcement while they’re in their safe space to help them learn that they will be ok in that space. Turning on the television or radio can provide distraction noise so that your pet isn’t hyper-focused on the loud noises they fear.
You can train and desensitize your pets to the noises that cause reactions. This process isn’t a quick solution, but if you have a few weeks or months to prepare, this might be for you. Start calming your pet down by giving them love and attention and then turning on a noise that they are only slightly scared of (this might be car noise vs. fireworks). Slowly increase volume until you see any reactions from your pet. If they react, leave the noise at this volume for a few minutes. Repeat this a few times per day. Once your pet stops reacting to the noise at that level, increase the volume until they react again and repeat the process at the louder level. If your pet seems stressed or anxious, turn off the noise immediately, as you likely progressed too fast. Once your pet seems less reactive to the noise, you can add in feeding them treats so they have positive reinforcement to their calm behavior.
If you are unsure about any method for helping your pet deal with loud noises, please contact us to discuss what may work best.