Dog Noise Anxiety(part 1 of 2)

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It may be much more than “Just A Noise” to your dog!


When young children hear a scary noise at night, they often run to their parents. The response is usually something like “Don’t worry. It was just thunder.” Or “It was just a noise. Nothing to be frightened of.” Unfortunately, for a dog that is afraid of noise, no amount of explaining or consoling will help. Noise Anxiety is a very real and very common problem for dogs across the country. The estimates vary widely, but somewhere between 5 million and 15 million dogs suffer from noise anxiety severe enough for their owners to seek help. That’s a lot of anxiety! Below is a brief overview of canine noise anxiety including symptoms, causes, and remedies. If your dog suffers from noise anxiety, there are choices available to help relieve her stress. Unfortunately, many veterinarians are not well versed on the different treatments out there and jump to prescribing medications. Make sure you do your research before settling on a plan. But believe me, your dog isn’t alone in her fear and you can help her!

Symptoms

Noise anxiety can exhibit many symptoms and severity levels. On the less extreme end of the spectrum, a fear of thunder may just cause some shaking and clinging to her owner. On the other extreme, thunder may cause panicked running, destructive chewing, defecating indoors, or even jumping through a plate glass window! The table below lists many of the known symptoms. Review the list to see which symptoms your dog may exhibit. Some owners aren’t even aware that a negative behavior they are seeing is actually caused by noise anxiety. For example, does your dog get upset when you take photographs using a flash? That may be noise anxiety! The flash may remind your dog of lightning and she becomes frightened that a storm may be coming.

Symptoms of Canine Noise Anxiety

Shaking / Trembling

Panting

Drooling

Pacing / Panicked Running

Whining / Barking

Deficating / Urinating Indoors

Destructive Chewing

Clinging to people

Hiding

Scratching

Not Eating

Squeezing into a tight place

Causes

Determining what caused your dog’s noise anxiety may be difficult to pinpoint, if not impossible. If you’re lucky, you may be able to trace the start of your dog’s anxiety to a traumatic incident such as being too close to a fireworks show or too close to a lightning strike and its subsequent thunder clap. But more than likely, it won’t be anything that obvious. Your dog may have a genetic predisposition for noise anxiety. Studies have shown that some breeds have a higher incidence of noise anxiety such as Collies, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. For some dogs, noise anxiety gradually appears and worsens as they age for no apparent reason. For other dogs, it appears as a puppy and stays with them.

But one thing that most experts agree on… when it comes to noise anxiety, you never want to pet, coddle, or otherwise console the dog when she’s exhibiting symptoms. Your dog will most likely interpret your behavior as “You see! I do have something to be worried about!” It’s important for the people around the dog to behave normally during events that trigger the dog’s anxiety. In fact, a possible cause for noise anxiety in the first place is her owner’s nervousness or fear of some kind of noise. Most dogs are very sensitive to their owners’ moods. If her owner has a fear of thunder, she may give her owner the benefit of the doubt!

What your dog is actually experiencing with noise anxiety could also be numerous things. For some, it may be just the noise that bothers her…a dog’s hearing is far more sensitive than a person’s and some loud noises may even cause physical discomfort . But for others, it may not even be the actual noise that frightens the dog. Dogs have highly developed senses of smell…they may smell a thunderstorm long before they hear any thunder. Dogs are more sensitive to barometric pressure changes than people…wide swings in pressure may even cause pain in some dogs. Dogs also may react to the buildup of static electricity in their fur when Thunderstorms approach.

Whatever the case may be, there are treatments to consider for giving relief to your dog.

Treatments for Noise Anxiety

So what are you to do? Different treatments work for different dogs. There is no guarantee that any one alternative is best for your dog. Besides the effectiveness at reducing symptoms, there are other issues to consider when evaluating which treatment may be best for your dog. Some treatments can be very time consuming for the owner (for example, desensitizing). Some treatments can become very expensive and pose risks of side effects (for example, ongoing medications). I suggest that you review the options below. If you are just getting started with treating your dog’s noise anxiety, I recommend beginning with the least expensive and time consuming option (a wrap) and if that doesn’t produce the desired results, continue with the other options. It’s not unusual for a combination of treatments to ultimately be the most effective for a particular dog.


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