Thunderstorms and Your Pet

Jul 9, 2013

Summer’s beautiful weather is upon us and with the warmer weather comes the fear of the dreaded thunderstorms. This fear usually resonates higher with our four legged friends. Thunderstorms can seem like no big deal to us but to our pets it can be the complete opposite. Thunderstorms are more commonly known to have an impact in dogs than in cats. Pets can develop this fear at a very early age, but one random night with lots of thunder activity can create this phobia. Fireworks celebrations are another situation when your pet can be frightened. The sound of fireworks going off, whether it is in close proximity or not can, make your pet feel very anxious. Familiar symptoms are increased panting, drooling, pacing, whining, cowering, or hiding, or pets may even start to shake. They can also try to find an escape, leading to accidents in the house or even destroyed furniture. Contacting your veterinarian as soon as these signs are recognized is the best place to start in helping your pet with their storm phobia. Even though it is not known as to what triggers this phobia in pets, veterinarians suspect that they are set off by an increase in wind, noise from the thunder, the flashing light from lightning, barometric pressure changes, and low frequency rumbles proceeding a storm that are obsolete to the human ear. If you see your pet become more anxious from everyday noises in the household or slight changes in day to day activity just imagine what a storm can do when the noises and environmental changes are magnified!!

There are some steps you can take to help your pet cope. First, try to offer them a safe place to go when a storm occurs. Their crate, an isolated spot in the basement, or in a room with you with some background noise to drown out the sounds of thunder, can help to calm them. If you begin to notice that there is one spot in particular that your pet always seems to run to during a storm make sure that it’s safe, and is accessible to them so as not to increase their anxiety. An interesting idea to consider would be to place your pet into a snug garment. Researchers find that placing your pet into a snug t-shirt or pressure wrap can have a calming effect similar to swaddling a baby.

Before you try household remedies to comfort your pet though, remember that this can slightly improve things but also have the potential to make matters worse. Please remember that it is best in these types of situations to consult with your veterinarian for proper advice. In some cases, if the doctor is able to examine your pet regarding their fear of storms, they can give better advise as to what will be the best course of action to take in assisting your pet. Depending on the severity of your pets anxiety, perhaps simple behavioural modification or even giving anti-anxiety medications before the storm could help significantly. In other cases, more complex treatments may be warranted. Definitely don’t delay though! Make an appointment today with your veterinarian who will work with you to set up a treatment plan that best fits your pets needs. Hopefully this will prevent this phobia from developing into a dangerous situation!!