Has your furry pal ever dived under the coffee table when you brought out the vacuum? Or burrowed in your closet during the crashing sounds of summer thunderstorms? If this sounds like your pet, they may be suffering from noise aversion, a common condition that affects many cats and dogs, but, unfortunately, often goes undiagnosed and untreated, as pet owners think the behavior is normal and fail to mention it to their veterinarian. Prevent your pet from needless suffering by learning to spot noise aversion signs. Our Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team answers all your questions about noise aversion in pets to help your four-legged friend cope with loud noises.

Question: What is noise aversion in pets?

Answer: Noise aversion is simply the term used to describe the anxiety felt when faced with loud sounds. Although pets typically flinch or duck when they hear deafening sounds, the condition escalates to noise aversion when they also develop stress and anxiety during cacophonous events. 

Q: What causes noise aversion in pets?

A: Genetics, socialization, and your pet’s background play a role in noise aversion development. Certain breeds, like herding breeds, are more prone to noise aversion, while hunting dogs are less likely to be sound-sensitive. If your pet was not exposed to a variety of loud sounds during their prime socialization period—about 3 to 16 weeks of age for puppies and kittens—startling noises can be scary. Gentle, positive exposure to soundtracks of common, yet frightening, sounds when the pet is young can prevent them from developing noise aversion later in life.  

Q: What are noise aversion signs in pets?

A: Noise aversion signs consist of general anxiety signs, but are triggered by a loud sound. So, if your pet sees your vacuum leave the closet, they may display the following signs if they have noise aversion:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vocalization (e.g., whining, barking, meowing, howling)
  • Pacing
  • Trembling
  • Excessive shedding
  • Seeking attention
  • Hiding
  • Inappropriate urination or defecation
  • Attempting to escape
  • Destructive behaviors

In severe noise aversion cases, pets have been known to harm themselves trying to escape. A terrified pet may attempt to dig through the floor, claw down a door, or burst through a window trying to find a safe place.

Q: What are common noise aversion triggers in pets?

A: Any sound can potentially trigger an anxiety episode in your pet, but some of the most common noises that cause pets fear include:

  • Thunderstorms
  • Fireworks
  • Backfiring cars
  • Construction work
  • Shrieking children
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Loud TV and radio sounds
  • Gunshots
  • Lawn equipment

Monitor your pet if they show noise aversion signs during the loudest events, like fireworks and thunderstorms. Over time, they may also become fearful of other sounds that seem innocuous. 

Q: How will I know if my pet has noise aversion?

A: Unlike many conditions, no blood test or other laboratory test can diagnose noise aversion in your pet. Instead, our Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital veterinarian will listen to your pet’s history and the signs you see at home. If your pet’s behavior seems to align with a medical condition, diagnostic testing to rule that out may be recommended. A noise aversion diagnosis is typically reached by ruling out other potential causes and taking a close look at your pet’s history.

Q: How can I manage my pet’s noise aversion at home?

A: When your pet displays noise aversion, don’t shout, scold, or punish them, which will only worsen their anxiety. Instead, provide them with a safe, sound-proofed if possible, place to hide. Stock the spot with a cozy bed, favorite toys, and a long-lasting treat so your pet has something to focus on other than loud sounds. Further ease your pet’s anxiety by applying a soothing compression wrap and diffusing calming pheromones in the room. To help cover the piercing noises outside, play soft white noise, or leave a TV or radio playing in the background. Sitting with your pet and playing with toys or simply petting them will reassure them they’re not alone.

Q: How can my Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital veterinarian help my pet’s noise aversion?

A: Some pets become so fearful when confronted with terrifying sounds, they cause harm to themselves, their owners, and their homes. Pets with moderate to severe noise aversion can benefit from anti-anxiety medications and calming supplements that our veterinarian can prescribe when at-home measures cannot ease your pet’s fear.

Does your pet demonstrate anxiety signs when faced with loud noises? Contact our Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team for an appointment so we can help alleviate your pet’s noise aversion.