Noise phobias are a common complaint by dog owners and as we head into the July 4th weekend and the thunderstorm-filled summer months, we wanted to discuss noise phobias in our senior patients. Some senior dogs show improvement in noise phobia as their sense of hearing diminished, but for many senior dogs their anxieties and noise phobias can become worse.
A new study published in Frontiers of Veterinary Science found that dogs responding with fear and anxiety to loud noises could be hiding musculoskeletal pain. The underlying and often untreated pain could then be worsened when a startling noise occurred, causing the dog to jump or tense. These sudden movements could then incur extra pain on joints and areas that are already inflamed and sore. Dogs quickly link the loud noise and the painful response and therefore become even more anxious to avoid a scenario like that again. In this study, when dogs were treated for underlying pain, their fearful behavior was much improved.
Many dogs can have an innate fear of loud noises, such as fireworks, thunderstorms, jet planes, gunshots, loud cars, and motorcycles; however, if an older dog begins to develop this fearful behavior as they age- it is important to have a veterinarian assess whether or not it may be pain related.
There are also several options for treating noise phobias in dogs with and without a secondary pain reaction. Calming nutraceuticals like Composure, can be helpful, as well as Thundershirts, essential oils, and in severe cases prescription medications like Trazodone or Sileo. The key to all of these treatments, however, is to ensure that the pet is pain-free before trying to calm and to use these tools before the true fear sets in- ideally 60 minutes before any known triggers. Calming music and treat puzzles and distractions can also help condition pets to adapt to loud noises. If you have tried the over the counter options for treating noise phobias and your dog remains fearful, we recommend discussing this with your veterinarian to see if stronger supplements (Composure Pro) or medications would be indicated.
If you have a pet who would benefit from a pain management, anxiety, or integrative medicine consultation, please contact Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice at 757-474-5968.