For most people, the familiar sounds of summer—kids splashing and laughing in the pool, families chatting and grilling in the backyard, or an ice cream truck’s magical music—make us happy, but many pets fail to share the joy. Loud sounds frighten many pets, especially extremely noise-averse pets, for whom the sounds of summer—storms and fireworks noises—commonly cause them to react with anxiety and panic. Our Urgent Pet Care Omaha team offers you these tricks to help your noise-averse pet survive the sounds of summer.
Why do storms and fireworks frighten my pet?
Many pets are afraid of loud, unpredictable noises, and pets with a noise aversion can suffer immensely during summer’s thunder and lightning storms and equally loud fireworks displays.
Some pets are genetically predisposed to noise anxiety, while others develop the condition as a result of a traumatic experience. If you have not exposed your pet to new sights, sounds, and people—especially during their critical socialization period between 3 and 12 weeks of age—they are more likely to develop a noise aversion as they mature.
What are noise aversion signs in pets?
Our pets are unable to tell us when they are feeling frightened, but they certainly can show us. While most pets react somewhat to a loud noise, a noise-averse pet’s reaction is more intense and long lasting. Noise-averse pets’ common behavioral signs include:
- Vocalizing (i.e., whining or barking)
- Excessive panting
- Lip licking
- Uncontrollably urinating
- Clinging to you
- Immobility (i.e., frozen in fear)
In addition, a noise-averse pet’s reaction may include frantic, destructive behavior, such as digging, chewing, or attempting to escape. Being able to identify your pet’s noise aversion signs helps you better understand their fear and recognize when you should seek veterinary help.
How can I keep my noise-averse pet calm?
While you cannot prevent noises that scare your pet, you can help them cope. Keep your noise-averse pet calm before or during an anxiety-inducing situation, by following these tips:
- Create a safe space — Give your pet a safe space where they can feel secure and comfortable during a storm or a fireworks display. In an interior room, a large closet, the basement, or the bathtub or shower, you can create your pet’s safe space, which they should always be able to easily access if a storm occurs when they are home alone.
- Drown out the noise — If you know in advance, bring your pet to their safe space before the storm arrives or the fireworks display begins, and turn on calming, classical music, or an engaging television show to drown out the frightening sounds outside.
- Provide your pet with calming products — Many pet calming tools are available. Provide your noise-averse pet with extra support and comfort by trying these products:
- ThunderShirt — Similar to a weighted blanket, your pet’s adjustable ThunderShirt applies constant, gentle pressure to their body, helping them feel secure, and reducing their anxiety.
- Calming sprays and diffusers — Calming pheromones, which are added to many sprays and diffusers, can help relieve your pet’s stress.
- Interactive toys — Highly engaging, interactive toys (e.g., a puzzle feeder or a treat-stuffed Kong) can distract your pet and help them focus on something other than the fear-inducing noises.
- Consult with your veterinarian — Some pets are so fearful of loud sounds, they may harm themselves by frantically attempting to dig out of their crate or through your home’s door. Anti-anxiety medication or supplements may benefit your extremely noise-averse pet. In addition, you should consult with your veterinarian to determine an effective treatment plan if your at-home calming techniques do not prevent your frantic pet from self-harming behavior.
- Use behavioral modification — Behavioral modification techniques are time-consuming, but they can give your noise-averse pet positive, long-term relief. Through counterconditioning and desensitization techniques, you introduce your pet to a positive experience—a high-value treat—when your pet’s trigger occurs. Look online to learn how to use these techniques yourself, or enlist a qualified positive-reinforcement trainer’s help. By showing patience and expressing encouragement, you can help your pet become more comfortable when exposed to previous fear-inducing stimuli.
We want you and your pet to enjoy a summer filled with fun, adventure, and plenty of quality time together, so when storms and fireworks booms send your pet scampering for cover, following these tips to help them feel calm, safe, and secure. If your at-home strategies are not enough to calm your pet, contact our Urgent Pet Care Omaha team to discuss anti-anxiety medication and other multimodal treatment options.