What is Noise Phobia?

Dr. Corynn Johnson

Does your dog ever hide in the closet during a thunderstorm? Cower or tremble on the Fourth of July? You may have a pet who suffers from noise phobia, one of many anxiety disorders in dogs. Some animals with noise phobia will also exhibit signs of generalized anxiety, but others are perfectly happy and calm family members until things get loud in their environment.

Symptoms of noise phobia can be mild with some dogs hiding under beds or refusing to go outside during a thunderstorm. Other dogs can show dramatic signs of panic and anxiety including destruction of their home, injury to their mouths and paws from trying to escape a kennel or room, and bolting or fleeing when outside. Bolting can result in pets getting hit by cars or becoming lost and is a particular problem on the Fourth of July when their families are away from the home.

Noise phobia often worsens over time, so even dogs with mild signs can show more severe signs as they get older. None of us wishes for our pets to be anxious or fearful. Anxiety can lead to a variety of other health and behavior issues when untreated. For these reasons, even mild noise phobia should be addressed as soon as signs are noted. Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies to ease your pet’s fear.

Soothing Pets with Noise Phobia

The first and most important step is to provide your pet with a safe and comfortable area for retreat. Crate training is invaluable for pets with noise phobia. Pets often feel safe in small spaces and familiar surroundings, and a crate can serve this purpose. Alternatively, if your dog is very large, a small bathroom or closet also works well. Stock the retreat area with your pet’s favorite bed, toys, and long-lasting treats or chews such as peanut butter stuffed Kong toys. Ensure small children leave pets alone when they go to their retreat area.

White noise played in the retreat area is often helpful as well. You can use an app on your phone or a white noise machine if you like. A running shower, loud fan, radio, or dryer can do the job as well. If you know a triggering event is expected, you can prevent fear and anxiety from getting started by placing your pet in his retreat area with the white noise of your choice prior to the noise beginning.

Medication for Noise Phobia

For pets that exhibit signs of generalized anxiety even when noises are not present, long-term daily medications can be beneficial (Prozac is commonly used, but many are available). However, for otherwise calm pets who only get upset during storms or fireworks shows, short-acting medications can be given. Drugs such as Benadryl (for very mild cases), acepromazine, trazadone, Xanax, and others help to calm a pet when noisy events are expected. It’s best to give the medication before the thunderstorm rolls through or before dark on the Fourth of July rather than waiting until a pet is already upset.

Sileo is a new medication recently released to the market specifically for noise phobia. It provides a gel of sedating medication that allows you to easily adjust the dose to suit your pet. This medication is applied beneath your pet’s tongue and takes about 45 minutes to reach full effect with calming lasting 2-3 hours.

If you’re noticing signs of noise phobia, talk to your primary care veterinarian about strategies and medications to best manage it. It’s possible for pets to stay calm and happy even when scary things happen outside.

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