What are Noise Sensitivities?
Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for this condition. However, your veterinarian can help you form a plan to decrease the phobic reaction to noise. If you suspect your pet may be sensitive to noise contact your veterinarian.
Noise sensitivities in dogs can be caused by physical health conditions, but often this sensitivity is due to fear and a phobic reaction. It is not unusual for dogs to show fear when exposed to unfamiliar stimulus, however, phobia is an extreme response that may drastically affect your dog’s life quality.
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Symptoms of Noise Sensitivities in Dogs
Phobic responses to noise in dogs are:
- Increased panting and salivation
- Crouched position and tucked tail
- Lowered ears
- Other signs of stress such as yawning, lip licking and hiding
- In some cases, dogs become aggressive due to fear
Causes of Noise Sensitivities in Dogs
Noise phobias in dogs are a mental health concern that are often caused due to genetic factors, stressful or traumatic environmental events, poor socialization, or medical conditions that affect the mental development. Common stimulus that can cause fear are:
- Thunder and storms
- Construction work or unusual road noise
Due to the nature of the phobia avoidance is not always possible.
Diagnosis of Noise Sensitivities in Dogs
Your veterinarian will look at your pet’s full clinical history and perform a full body examination. A diagnosis of noise sensitivity is often made due to the pet’s clinical history. Your veterinarian may examine your pet’s ears using an otoscope to rule out any physical conditions that may be causing the behavior. As the medication prescribed to assist in treating this condition can be contraindicated in cases of hepatic or renal dysfunction a full blood chemistry panel will be performed by your veterinarian.
Treatment of Noise Sensitivities in Dogs
Although the long-term goal is to reduce your pet’s reaction to noise through training, initially the focus will be to reduce immediate stress. Your pet may be given medication such as clomipramine hydrochloride. This medication, taken orally as a pill, reduces the signs of anxiety by affecting serotonergic and noradrenergic neuronal transmission in the central nervous system. Your pet may experience some side effects, such as mild sedation, transient constipation, and dry mouth. Due to it’s potential for cardiovascular effects your veterinarian will carefully listen to your dog’s heart prior to prescription. For short-term treatment and acute situations of stress, benzodiazepines may be given to your pet. Diazepam is often given for the treatment of anxiety related symptoms and is usually tolerated well by dogs. Many pets require this medication during New Year’s Eve celebrations due to fireworks. Although diazepam can affect short-term memory, this can be beneficial in these situations.
Your veterinarian will help you develop a program and effective strategy to modify your pet’s behavior. The initial plan may be to decrease exposure to the stressor and your pet may be prescribed medication. Your veterinarian may recommend contacting a canine behavior expert for hands-on guidance.
The most effective training method for phobia treatment is a mix of counterconditioning and desensitization. Counterconditioning in pets with noise sensitivities involves exposing the pet to the feared noise while simultaneously exposing them to a positive stimulus, such as petting or food. Initially, this may be a recording of the noise played very quietly, and gradually increased over weeks. This is a time-consuming process as it is vital that this is done very gradually.
There are products available that may be beneficial to use alongside behavior training. These include:
- Dog appeasing pheromone plug ins that release synthetic hormones and have shown to reduce stress in dogs
- Thunder shirts that fit snugly onto your pet, applying gentle pressure have been shown to provide comfort
Recovery of Noise Sensitivities in Dogs
If your pet is suffering from noise sensitivities the prognosis may be guarded. It is important to remember that increasing stimuli during counterconditioning training too quickly can have adverse effects on your pet, but with patience and time you may see improvement in your pet. Although complete recovery may not be possible, using a range of treatments such as environmental management, behavior correction training, utilizing various products, and medications may reduce your pet’s stress.
If your pet has been prescribed clomipramine hydrochloride, it may be between 3 – 4 weeks until therapeutic effects from the drug are seen. As this drug may affect the urinary and cardiovascular system, your veterinarian may discuss the need to be aware of side effects or new symptoms developing and of regular revisit appointments
Although diazepam is not considered a long-term solution, your pet may require this medication to manage acute cases. If this is the case, due to the effect of this drug on the hepatic system, your veterinarian may request regular blood chemistry tests performed to check liver health. If your veterinarian believes your pet is able to cease the medication, a gradual withdrawal will take place. It is important that your pet does not stop taking this medication abruptly.