Fireworks are common throughout the summer, especially on holidays like Independence Day. What we might see as a fun way to celebrate can be terrifying for our furry friends. Loud booms and bright flashes of lights can be seriously distressing for your dog.
At least one-third of dogs suffer from noise aversion, a fear and anxiety exhibited upon hearing loud noises (including fireworks) that leads to stress, suffering and potentially-destructive behavior. Other terms used to describe this response to noise include noise anxiety or noise phobia. Noise aversion shouldn’t be a normal part of “being a dog,” as it’s actually a serious medical condition that can be treated. Even though noise aversion is a medical condition, only 40% of owners of dogs that display noise aversion signs seek help from their veterinarian. This is particularly sad, as delaying the diagnosis and treatment can increase both the frequency and severity of a dog’s symptoms[2,3], worsen their overall quality of life, increase their risk of injury, and even put a strain on the bond between your family and your dog.
When a dog with a noise aversion to fireworks hears them, it’s terrifying and causes great distress. It’s similar to a person experiencing a panic attack. This fear and anxiety causes their heart to race, puts them on heightened alert, and may even cause them to engage in destructive behavior. This destructive behavior can cause your dog to injure themselves trying to escape their environment, or damage their surroundings by chewing furniture, scratching floors and doors, or digging holes in your yard. Untreated noise aversion can also lead to or worsen other canine anxieties, like separation anxiety or general anxiety. It can become a bit of a vicious cycle for an undiagnosed and untreated dog.
Noise aversion is a medical diagnosis, but you need to recognize and speak to your veterinarian about your dog’s signs before diagnosis and treatment can begin. Use this checklist to see if your dog is displaying any of the signs and behaviors that might indicate a noise aversion to fireworks. If they are, it’s time for a visit to your vet to confirm the diagnosis and then figure out a treatment and management plan.
If your veterinarian confirms the diagnosis of noise aversion, your dog’s treatment plan may include a combination of medications, behavior modification, and environmental modification.
Remember that your dog is reacting to the noise out of fear and anxiety, so never punish your dog for their noise aversion signs, as that will only make your dog more fearful and anxious.
Noise aversion is a terrible experience for your dog. By identifying the signs and speaking to your veterinarian to initiate treatment early, you can prevent your dog from suffering and keep her a happy and healthy member of your family the entire year, including the July 4th Holiday.
For more tips on caring for a dog with noise aversion, see this list.