Fear of Noises in Dogs and Cats

November 9, 2020 (published)
Photo courtesy of Adobestock

Animals may develop a fear response to any noise: fireworks, thunder, gunshots, cars backfiring, lawnmowers, hair dryers, smoke detectors, garbage trucks, etc. This fear response may result in mild to severe signs, such as trembling, whale eyes, whining and barking, pacing or circling, panting, yawning, licking their lips, hiding under furniture, or clawing at doors to escape. Some pets show a few mild signs -- others may dig through sofas or walls.

Many factors can contribute to this fear. Negative experiences around a specific noise can cause anxiety when it is heard again. This fear response may also be due to lack of early socialization (3-14 weeks old for dogs, 2-7 weeks old for cats); without this, exposure to new sounds may cause strong reactions. Underlying illness can also be a contributing factor; a pet who is sick or painful may feel vulnerable to scary noises. As in humans, when animals age, their brain chemistry and general health changes, and anxieties may worsen.

There are many treatment options for this behavior; often, combinations of these methods are needed. Talk to your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan customized for an individual animal, including medications and behavioral modifications.

There are other products available that have varying success in the treatment of fear and anxiety. Such as antianxiety wraps (compression jackets/hoods, T-Touch wraps), calming supplements, species-specific pheromones, massage techniques, acupuncture, white/brown noise, or calming music.

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