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NOISE sensitivities, such as fear, anxiety and phobia-based responses to noise or sound stimuli (Sherman and Mills 2008), have a high prevalence in dogs. Blackwell and others (2013) found that 25 per cent of owners surveyed in the UK reported their dog to be fearful of noises, with 49 per cent of owners in the same study indicating that their dog displays at least one sign of fear when exposed to loud noises, which is consistent with the 42 percent reported in the 2015 PDSA PAW report (PDSA 2015). The most commonly reported noise stimulus triggering a response in these studies were fireworks, but this problem is more than a seasonal issue with dogs commonly reacting to a range of other noises such as thunder, gunshots and vehicle and household noises, by showing signs including panting, escape attempts, hiding and destructiveness (Sherman and Mills 2008).
Despite there being well-established treatment programmes for the long-term elimination of the problem (Levine and others 2007), it is a cause for concern that less than a third of owners have sought help for their dog, and the majority of those who do turn to someone other than their veterinarian (Blackwell and others 2013), suggesting that a large number of dogs remain untreated for noise sensitivities.
Underlying medical problems reported to be associated with the onset of noise sensitivity in dogs include cognitive dysfunction (Landsberg and others 2011), suboptimal thyroid function (Aronson and Dodds 2005, Dodman and others 2013) and, based on our own experience, a range of pain-related problems.
The veterinary profession should be at the forefront of actively promoting the potential to solve the problem of noise sensitivities in dogs. Long-term management involves desensitising the dog to the fear-provoking noise over an extended time period and, although time consuming, has an excellent prognosis …