Is your dog scared of loud noises? New research shows that there could be a link between noise phobias ( or sound sensitivities) and pain in our dogs…
Does your dog react to loud noises?
Sirens, thunder, fireworks, dropping a pot lid?
If so they could be sound sensitive or even noise phobic. This is quite a common behaviour issue amongst our pet dogs and, while those owners that I see in consults, may not come to me for this reason, they often mention it as a passing observation:
“He hates noises. When I sneeze, he cowers!”
“She just freezes when there is a storm!”
Animal behavioural scientists from the UK and Brazil examined dogs who were sensitivity to noises and found that those which also had associated pain formed a greater sensitivity to noise.
Why would this happen?
Well, if your dog is sensitive to noise, as many are and they react by moving or by tensing up their bodies when the noise occurs, this may exacerbate any existing pain, as extra stress is put on already inflamed muscles or joints. That pain is then associated with the noise, making them fear it more. A painful, noisy cycle for your dog!
The researchers also found that this condition appeared later in the dogs’ lives. Of course, dogs can be scared of noises at any age and it is worth seeking treatment if your dog has a sound phobia. If your dog is older and begins to be sensitive to noises, then you should ask your vet to check for muscular-skeletal pain in your dog.
Dogs with or without pain show typical behavioural symptoms of shaking, trembling and hiding with exposure to sounds but those with a diagnosed pain issue also showed a higher level of avoidance of places that they had a bad experience with noise. So your dog may avoid going along a street where they know that a siren may go off or they may avoid the kitchen at home, if you routinely make bangs and crashed as you cook.
Dogs with fears often tend to generalise fears too, making the situation worse. So not only does the noise sensitive dog start to avoid the location where they may hear the noises they dislike, they also avoid anything within that area. Perhaps they begin to have an aversion to the dog park, if the gate clangs shut near them but this extends to avoiding contact with any dogs in the park. Dogs with chronic pain often cease playing with other dogs and aggression towards dogs can increase.
How to alleviate the pain-sound canine case
If your dog has sound sensitivities, you should discuss this with your vet. If you suspect your dog in is pain, you should not only get it treated but also look at any concurrent behavioural changes that you have observed. Veterinarians and behaviourists should carefully assess dogs with noise sensitivities for pain-related problems.
Sound phobias can be treated by behaviour modification therapy. Anxieties of all sorts are common in dogs but can be helped by desensitisation therapy. Gradual, positive exposure to sound can help desensitise your dog.
Use of calming techniques such as The Anxiety Wrap, calming scents and music may also helo your dog relax.
And as many clients eventually say to me… “Getting old is a good thing for my dog! They’ve gone deaf now and aren’t scared of loud noises anymore!”
About the author:
Dr Jo Righetti is the owner of this website Pet Problems Solved. As an animal behaviourist, she sees dogs with noise sensitivities and other anxieties and helps owners work with their dogs to reduce stress. Jo lives with a dog, 4 cats and many chickens.
More about anxiety in dogs
Original study: Noise sensitivities in dogs
Anxiety in dogs
Relaxing your pet with music, audiobooks and movies
Scent enrichment helps welfare