For the first time in years we have a dog and cats that could not care less about thunder or lightening storms. However, we have hundreds of clients’ pets that we care for that ARE terrified of them. We get the question all the time, ‘My Dog is afraid of storms, what can I do?”
What Does Storm Anxiety Look Like in My Dog?
There are MANY different signs of storm anxiety. Some dogs (and cats too) experience them all, some experience only a couple of these:
- Shaking or trembling when the pressure changes outside
- Shaking or trembling while its raining, pouring, thundering or lightening is within a dozen or so miles (even if YOU can’t hear it)
- Lack of interest in meals or treats
- Lack of interest in playing with toys
- Hiding, staying under blankets or in dark rooms
- Panting (if not recently exercised)
- Destructive behavior such as: chewing, scratching, licking (your home, furniture or themselves)
- Pacing (either in a small space in one room or all over the house)
- Crying, whining or barking
- Desire to be right next to or on you
My Dog is Afraid of Storms, What Can I Do?
There are many ways to help ease your pet’s storm anxiety. The most important thing to know about nearly every method of preparation/anxiety reduction is you have to start it – as much as possible – BEFORE THE STORM STARTS. We hear so many people complain that something doesn’t work, but they don’t start the steps until after the storm is on top of them and their pet is freaking out.
So what tools can you use?
- Thundershirt (or similar product) – its a shirt/vest that wraps around your pet to squeeze them in order to trigger calming
- Pheromones’ (this is our favorite) – we LOVE Adaptil and use it regularly. Collars, room plug-ins and travel spray work great. If you aren’t going to use pheromones’ all the time to reduce anxiety regularly, we recommend the travel spray. Spray it on your pet’s bed, their favorite spot on the couch, or on a bandana that you will tie (loosely) around their neck. It takes about 15 minutes to kick in, but it CAN (and has for our clients) reduce anxiety IN THE MOMENT
- CBD Oil/Fluid – many people see great results with CBD/Hemp Treats, CBD Oil or CBD Fluid. We love Muenster’s CBD Oil (Use code MILAM35 at checkout for a discount!). Many clients also use treats infused with CBD/Hemp…we find that with HIGH anxiety situations, you have to use so many to calm your pet down its not fiscally worthwhile
- Turn On Lights – one of the scary parts of lightening storms, like fireworks, is the flashes of light. If there is a storm headed your way, turn on lights in the room(s) your pet is in to reduce that visual simulation that could trigger anxiety
- Turn On Music/TV – Thunder claps are scary – for kids and pets – and sometimes, even adults! If you have calming music (Spotify has a dog specific and cat specific calming channel), or a TV show/movie playing, your pet is less likely to hear the thunder (and less likely to fixate on it).
- Close Dog Doors – if you have a pet that has storm anxiety – its important to close dog doors so they can’t get outside if they get especially scared. You want to keep them inside and safe.
- Calming Place – this is especially important if you aren’t home…have a place where your dog (or cat) can go to hide. They are instinctually going to do this anyways, so if you create this space with their favorite bed, blanket, toys and in a dark corner (with lights on around the area), they will naturally go to that place when their anxiety kicks in. This is a great place to spray pheromones’ or use a pheromones’ plug in.
- Close curtains, windows and blinds – this ties into the turning on lights trick above. You want to reduce the visual cue of rain, wind and lightening that your pet might be able to see. And keeping these closed can also reduce the auditory cues that a storm is coming or here.
- Keep Fresh Water Nearby – as long as you don’t have an accident prone pet, its best to keep fresh water available whenever a dog is experiencing anxiety. Our shepherd Savannah used to pant and drool so much she would get dehydrated.
- Prescription Medication – in some cases, it may be best to talk to your vet about prescription solutions that can be administered before a storm hits to keep your pet calm
What Should I Never Do When My Pet Has Storm Anxiety?
It can be frustrating when your dog is freaking out. However, its important to remember to NEVER punish your dog or cat when they are experiencing anxiety of any kind. Punishment – or negative reinforcement will likely only make the anxiety worse.
Never stick your dog outside to ‘suffer through it’ in order to build up their tolerance. This won’t work, and its cruel.
Never leave your pet to their own devices in an unsafe situation. If you know that your dog tends to be destructive of property when they are experiencing storm anxiety, crating them may be best. If they tend to bolt at loud noises, leaving doors open, dog doors accessible or letting them outside during storms can result in your dog escaping and running without paying attention to surroundings (a neighbor once found their dog more than 5 miles from home a few hours after a storm because it ran so fast and so far after an especially loud thunderclap).
If your dog finds comfort in being next to you during anxious situations, don’t isolate them. Being put in isolation can increase levels of anxiety.
How Can I Help My Pet Get Over Their Storm Anxiety?
I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to seek support from an experienced trainer to work through storm anxiety. None of us like to see our pets suffer and the WORST feeling in the world is when you can’t do anything to calm them down. Working with a positive reinforcement trainer to use positive association with storm anxiety can change your pet’s life (and yours too!). We absolutely love Power to the Pawz and use them for Abbie!
If funds are low, you can start to work on this anxiety yourself, during storms. Find a yummy, never used treat that your dog LOVES (for Abbie, we use hot dogs, chicken, sharp cheddar cheese or fajita beef for the hard stuff). Whenever a storm is coming, get this treat ready. As the storm approaches – before your pet goes into an anxiety spin, start giving your pet this amazing treat. Continue using this treat during the storm as long as your pet will take it (still employ the other tools mentioned above). Be sure to ONLY use this high-value, yummy scrumptious treat during storms. If you use it during other times that don’t cause anxiety or worry, the affect will lessen. (Doing it yourself may not cure your pet’s anxiety and we still recommend working with a positive reinforcement trainer.)
Is your dog anxious during storms? Have you found success with anything we haven’t mentioned? Have you tried any of the tricks above? We’d love to hear your feedback!
Does your dog also suffer from fire work anxiety? Check out our blog to prepare your pets for the upcoming firework season.
Fur Services Fur Pets provides professional in-your-home dog sitting, cat sitting and small pet sitting in Savannah Texas, Union Park, Little Elm, Frisco, Prosper, Celina and Aubrey. Contact Us with questions, comments or to get started as a customer today!
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