Pets are not as thrilled about the New Year’s fireworks as their human owners. Just the opposite, they find the noise very stressful and even scary. The same counts for thunderstorms, especially when it comes to dogs although excessive fear of thunders, fireworks, gunshots and other loud noises can be developed by cats and other pets as well. And with each exposure, the fear tends to intensify, often progressing to noise phobia. Besides causing a major distress for both the pet and their owners, noise phobia also poses a risk of injury which can occur while the pet is trying to run away from the source of noise.
Dogs More Likely to Develop Noise Phobia than Cats
Irrational fear of loud noises such as thunders and New Year’s fireworks can be developed by both cats and dogs as well as other pets including horses. However, it is much more likely to be developed by dogs than cats. It remains unknown what causes noise phobia in pets and in most cases, there is no single trigger. But in most cases, the fear grows bigger with each exposure and eventually, the animal may also develop fear of similar noises/sounds and related events.
Signs and Symptoms of Noise Phobia
Animals suffering from noise phobia can display fear of loud noises in many different ways. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include trying to escape, hiding, shaking, pacing, drooling, whining, urinating/defecating, refusing to obey and panting, to mention just a few. As the animals try to run away from the source of the noise, they can injure themselves, while those succeeding to escape can get lost.
Making Loud Sounds Less Terrifying for Your Pet
If your pet suffers from noise phobia or is afraid of certain noises such as thunders and New Year’s fireworks, there are several things you can do to make the noise less stressful and frightening:
– Keep your pet away from sources of loud noises such as fireworks. As mentioned above, the fear tends to increase with each exposure. Therefore, it is best to avoid events such as New Year’s celebrations involving fireworks.
– Keep your pet indoors during thunderstorms. Pets generally feel safer with their owners and as a result, thunder and lightning appear less frightening. You may also run a kitchen fan or TV to mask the noise and distract your pet.
– Watch your attitude. The way you behave during thunderstorms and other ‘scary’ events has a major impact on your pet. Try to stay calm and take a comforting stand but be sure not to be overly comforting because the animal may misinterpret it as an approval of their behavior. Also, don’t punish your pet because it will only make things worse.
– Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier if you must go outside during a thunderstorm, fireworks or other loud event. Animals that are afraid of loud noises instinctively try to run away from the perceived threat and they don’t respond to commands. As a result, they are virtually impossible to control unless on a leash or in a carrier.
– Ask your vet for help. If your pet’s fear of loud noises is severe or if you suspect noise phobia, turn to your vet for help. There are several treatment options, with medications and behavior modification being the most common approaches to treatment of this irrational form of fear.