Loud Noises Scare Pets—Here’s How to Help Them Feel Safe

Montana fireworks are often a month-long affair, even with the current bans in Bozeman and Missoula. But any loud, sudden noises can be extremely frightening and stressful for our furry friends. 

Summer activities like parties, fireworks, and thunderstorms can make many pets want to run away in fear. Here’s how to protect your pets and keep them safe, even when loud noises like fireworks scare them.

Why Do Loud Noises Frighten Pets?

Our pets hear sounds much differently than we do—both dogs and cats hear a wider range of sounds than us. 

Human ears have evolved for listening to other humans, so our hearing is limited to sounds under 20,000 Hz. (Hertz, or HZ, is the unit of measurement for the frequency of sound.) We are unable to hear anything above this level. Dogs and cats, however, have ears designed for listening for prey (or predators), giving them a range up to 65,000 Hz. 

All in all, it is a wordy way to say: That bang sounded much louder to your pet than it did to you. 

How a Dog’s Ear Shape Impacts Their Hearing

Because of the way that dogs have been domesticated, the ears of different breeds have developed unique features. Some dogs, like rat terriers, have stiff and pointed ears that allow them to pick up and pinpoint sounds more accurately. Others, like bloodhounds, have floppy ears that drag along the ground in order to funnel scents into their noses. This is why different dogs living in the same household might react differently to the same loud noises. 

A Cat’s Hearing Is Better Than Pitch-Perfect

While dogs have developed different ear shapes to help them at their jobs, cat’s ears are all relatively similar. However, that doesn’t make them any less powerful. In fact, their hearing is even better than a dog’s! Cats hear a similar range of sounds but with a wider variance than dogs and humans combined. This can help them determine how big something is, and how off-key we are when we sing. 

Three Ways to Help Your Pet Feel Safe

1: Prep Your Space 

If there are scheduled loud noises, like 4th of July fireworks, a block party, or incoming thunderstorms, setting up a safe space can help. You can use sound machines to dampen the incoming noise, or products like “thunder jackets” that provide gentle pressure and make some pets feel safer. 

You can also set up a ‘den’ for your pet, that is a space just for them. Giving them a place to hide can help them feel safer. Make sure it is enclosed but well-ventilated—a blanket over a crate or cat tree is a great low-cost option. We also suggest stocking up on yummy snacks for when the noises are over (or for during a loud event—see below).  

2: Try Loud Sound Treat Training 

Every time your pet hears a loud noise, you can offer them a treat. Backfiring truck? Bam—treat time. Loud neighbor? Bam, treat! Eventually, whenever there is a loud noise, they will look toward you. 

This form of training is especially useful during a fire alarm, because rather than hiding under the bed or in a hard to reach spot, they will run for their human. If there is an emergency, this will make getting them out of the house much easier and safer. It also is great training for recall, making off-leash hikes safer. 

3: Politely Ask Your Neighbors to Stop 

If you have a good relationship with the neighbor setting off the fireworks at 10pm on a Wednesday in late July, maybe a nice polite ‘hey you’re scaring my pet’ could correct the situation. 

Although there are local noise ordinances in many neighborhoods, reporting your neighbor is not always the best idea. It could backfire on you if you have a dog that enjoys a good nighttime bark. 

Dental Pain Could Make Your Pet React Worse

When pets are in pain, their reactions to certain stimuli can be more extreme. If your pet is suddenly more agitated by loud noises, there could be something else going on. Nearly 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of three have some form of periodontal disease. 

Often caused by poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease is an inflammation in the soft tissues of the gums. It can lead to painful infections that affect their teeth and even their jaw! Keeping up with your pet’s oral hygiene by brushing their teeth once a day and visiting a dental veterinarian once a year can keep this disease at bay.

At Montana Pet Dentistry and Oral Surgery, we offer the very best in veterinary dental care. From yearly checkups to complicated dental surgeries, our staff of highly trained doctors and technicians will ensure that your pet gets the best care in Montana. If your pet is due for a dental checkup, contact us today to make an appointment.





Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/26/23). Photo by Thomas Bormans on Unsplash.