Why do Pets Have Sound Sensitivity?
Let's talk about it...quietly.
There are a multitude of reasons your dog or cat develops a sensitivity to loud noises. Primarily, your pets' hearing is exponentially better than ours so their auditory antennas are always up. Even though this can be isolating, you are not alone, up to 40% of US dogs have a reported phobia of loud noises and fireworks. Recent research has discovered there are a multitude of reasons including joint and muscle pain, which was not previously known.
For pet owners considering CBD it is good to know that Cannabidiol (CBD oil for cats and dogs) is an analgesic or pain reliever. In addition, the bright lights and rumbling from thunderstorms can be a sensory overload. Fireworks ring in at over 190 decibels, which can be quite a stressor depending upon how close you are.
Physical Signs of Sound Sensitivity in Dogs
Picking up on the signals your pet's giving out is key to calming anxious feelings.
- Flattened Ears
- Panting or Pacing
- Whining or Barking
- Bathroom Accidents
- Destructive Behaviors
- Drooling or Licking Lips
- Trembling, Shaking, or Chewing
Joint Pain & Sound Sensitivity
A recent study by Frontiers in Veterinary Science found there was often an underlying physical condition that led to increased reactivity to noise. The American Kennel Association extrapolated from this study that there can be underlying physical pain causing a sudden inability to handle loud noises. If sound sensitivity becomes a new issue for an older dog, then you may want to consult a veterinarian before starting any type of behavioral modification or treatments.
Researchers also found that the dogs studied had fearful responses to sounds like fireworks, thunderstorms, motorcycles, cars, planes, and gunshots. The study concluded that dogs experiencing ongoing pain had a later onset of sound related stress (up to 4 hours later). The most startling and profound finding was that sudden reaction or tremors exacerbate pain because of quick movements and jerking, which is why CBD oil and treats for dogs can be incredibly useful for fireworks and other instances that give your dog symptoms of anxiety.
The Veterinarian-led study recommended that pain plays a role:
- Senior dogs that are fearful of noise should be regularly checked for pain
- Analgesic or pain relief and behavior aids like CBD can be helpful
Outside of pain or arthritis your dog can be afraid of fireworks due to a genetic predisposition or past traumatic experiences. Believe it or not, some dog breeds are more afraid of fireworks than others and as you can imagine rescues or dogs kenneled for long periods of time are less desensitized to loud noises and light.
Anxiety vs. Fear in Dogs: What is the Difference?
There is also a correlation between separation anxiety and sound sensitivity. Neuroscientists distinguish between fear and anxiety, as the former being a response to potentially dangerous stimuli. While anxiety is the anticipation of a negative outcome (i.e. danger) without the actual danger being at the time of trigger. They noted in practice it is harder to tell the difference because behaviorally speaking anxiety promotes fear and vice versa.
Evolution has trained most cats and canines that avoiding a perceived threat is worth their overall survival and even if it’s ‘just fireworks’ or the threat is more perceived than real.
Are Certain Dog Breeds Are More Sound Sensitive?
Non-hunting and mixed-breed dogs tend to be more sensitive to sounds for the exact reasons you think, guns and age, but that is not the only reason. They are more susceptible to anxiety and fear of loud noises because they do not have a genetic history of being in tense or for some, traumatizing situations.
Other factors that contribute to your pet’s fear of loud noises are age, sex, reproductive status, exposure, and the length of time they have spent with you. As you can imagine, a newly homed senior rescue might have a tougher time with loud noises than a spry pup without any age-related issues.
Thunderstorms & Fireworks for Pets
The main reason your pets are afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks is because of the loud booms and bright lights, not to mention they are in tandem. Storms in general make most animals, including humans, want to find a cozy, quiet place and your pets are no different.
Scientists are still researching to figure out the exact reason, but for now the best thing pet owners can do is to provide a safe space with lots of cuddles.
Television & Music Induced Sound Sensitivity
Many pets are comforted by leaving the television on during the day. It can even be the key to keeping their separation anxiety at bay when you leave the house. On the other hand, there are many dogs that shriek at the sound of a loud TV–just as some would during fireworks or a thunderstorm. Every dog is different and finding what works best for your fur baby can be essential to keeping them calm and comfortable.
Dogs that are more prone to anxiety and over excitement include: Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Golden Doodles, Terriers, Corgis, and Chihuahuas, and Collies. Unlike Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels, who were domesticated to the sounds of gunshots and herding cattle or sheep, lap and toy dogs do not have a developed evolutionary response to stimuli like the aforementioned breeds.
How do you treat sound sensitivity in Dogs & Cats?
The best ways to improve your cat or dogs response to loud noises, fireworks, or thunderstorms is by providing enrichment, a safe quiet space, closing all doors, windows, and exits, and using CBD Oil or Treats to naturally aid in calming your dog’s anxiety.
Closing the blinds can be helpful as well because seeing bright lights alongside the loud noise makes the experience all the more triggering for your pets.
Desensitizing Your Dog
Basically, exposure therapy. The only difference is you adjust and gradually increase their interaction with loud noises, storms, or fireworks. One of the best ways to reduce reactivity to loud noises is providing a reward like a treat or enrichment toy every time they are not triggered. This not only reassures your dog, but provides a much needed distraction from stressors. For instance, if the sound of TV or loud music sets your pet into a fit then start at no or a low volume and over time (weeks or months) steadily increase the volume until they are no longer uncomfortable. Initially, turning on calm or soft sounds have a higher success rate. Also, introducing low doses of our Calm CBD soft-chews prior to desensitizing to calm anxious feelings during progressive exposure sessions.
Brain games and licky mats are a great distraction for your cats and canines. We recommend mixing your favorite CBD Oil with Peanut Butter and freezing it on a licky mat for your pets. In addition, make sure you are using Peanut Butter that does not contain Xylinthan sugar, which can be harmful for dogs and cats alike.
Calm, Quiet Safe Place
For many cats and canines, the most natural response to fireworks and thunderstorms is to run or hide. Ensuring your dog is microchipped is a must, if they are prone to break and run. According to the AKC, the highest rate of reported missing pets occurs between the 4th of July and September because of the loud noises, crowds of people, and often distracted owners trying to enjoy their holiday. Creating a safe-space for them, even if it's just a closet or a quiet part of your bedroom, with the lights off and all doors and windows closed, can make a huge difference.
As your pet’s primary caregiver, you know them best and looking for signs and signals of behavioral changes or pain can be spotted. By paying attention to their reactions and speaking with your veterinarian, come up with a plan that not only takes care of the symptoms, but truly helps your cat or canine feel more comfortable around loud noises. Introducing CBD for pets in oil or chew form can go along way for natural anxiety and pain relief.