Content continues after advertisement

Sound Sensitivities

Bonnie V. Beaver, DVM, MS, DSc (Hon), DPNAP, DACVB, DACAW, Texas A&M University


|February 2017

Sign in to Print/View PDF

In the Literature

Hargrave C. When does a pet’s sound sensitivity become a welfare problem? Companion Anim. 2016;21(10):548-553.

From the Page …

Studies have suggested that nearly 49% of dogs are reported by their owners to have some level of sound sensitivity.1-3 Thirteen percent of noise-fearful dogs respond to sounds barely audible to humans and exhibit enough fearful behavior to be considered phobic.1 Because most owners may not recognize early signs of these problems, actual sound sensitivity incidence is likely to be significantly higher. Taking no action to diagnose or manage is not ideal, as the rate of spontaneous recovery is only 4%.1 The intensity of the problem increases gradually with repeated exposures, and more occurrences can trigger fearful responses. Some owners (<30%) will ask for veterinary advice only after their trial-and-error techniques prove unhelpful and the problem has become severe.1-3  

Good welfare practice suggests prevention of sound sensitivity or early intervention is best. It is important to ask a few basic questions every time the patient is presented to the clinic, such as “Does your dog show any trembling, panting, pacing, whining, hiding, or increased clinging during thunderstorms or when fireworks go off?”2-4   

Veterinary practices can recommend owners identify “safe spots” their pets can use and encourage their use even for pets not yet showing problems.5 For dogs, these spots are typically interior closets where there are strong owner odors from shoes or dirty clothes.3,6 Cats seek small, dark hiding places instead of those that are scent enriched.  

To assess the presence and degree of sound sensitivity, a simple online tool can be useful to convince owners there may be a problem.7 When sound sensitivity is identified, established behavior-modification techniques include desensitization and counterconditioning. Having step-by-step guidelines for owners to follow can improve success as well. Although tempting for situational relief, drug therapy alone is minimally successful at eliminating the problem; however, medications with behavior modification will increase success, particularly in severely affected animals.3,4

… To Your Patients

Key pearls to put into practice:


Detect sound sensitivity early by asking relevant questions about response to specific noises (eg, fireworks, thunder) at each patient visit.



Advise owners to identify and encourage use of safe spots for all pets, even those not yet exhibiting a problem.



Provide tools that enable owners to identify sound sensitivity (eg, an online assessment) and treat it successfully (eg, step-by-step guidelines for desensitization and counterconditioning).

References and Author Information

For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

All Clinician's Brief content is reviewed for accuracy at the time of publication. Previously published content may not reflect recent developments in research and practice.

Material from Clinician's Brief may not be reproduced, distributed, or used in whole or in part without prior permission of Educational Concepts, LLC. For questions or inquiries please contact us.


Clinician's Brief:
The Podcast
Listen as host Alyssa Watson, DVM, talks with the authors of your favorite Clinician’s Brief articles. Dig deeper and explore the conversations behind the content here.
Clinician's Brief provides relevant diagnostic and treatment information for small animal practitioners. It has been ranked the #1 most essential publication by small animal veterinarians for 9 years.*

*2007-2017 PERQ and Essential Media Studies

© 2023 Educational Concepts, L.L.C. dba Brief Media ™ All Rights Reserved. Terms & Conditions | DMCA Copyright | Privacy Policy | Acceptable Use Policy