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Thunderstorm Phobia: Calming the Storm

By: Makeasa Rosemond

What is Thunderstorm Phobia?

The sky starts to darken. Your dog begins to freak out. Dogs can sense storms before the first strike of lightning or clap of thunder, and may begin looking for a place to hide. Some dogs become so anxious during storms that they shake, drool excessively or become destructive in an attempt to escape. This is thunderstorm phobia.

Symptoms

  • Hiding
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Excessive barking & whining
  • Excessive salivation
  • Destructiveness
  • Self-inflicted trauma
  • Incontinence

If your dog experiences any of the symptoms above during a storm, visit your veterinarian to ensure there are no underlying medical conditions.

According to vets, some fear-related pet issues can be successfully resolved with desensitization. Desensitization is a positive-reinforcement method that starts by conditioning your pet to stay calm, when they hear thunderstorm sounds. Desensitizing audio programs can help introduce storm noises. Start at low levels and gradually increase the volume over time until your pet no longer shows signs of fear. Simple things like distracting your dog or creating a safe place during storms can also help them overcome their fear.

How to calm your pet during storms

  1. Stay calm. Adopt a neutral, matter-of-fact attitude to put your pet at ease.
  2. Avoid the outdoors. Flashes of lightning can be an additional source of anxiety.
  3. Be patient. Your dog doesn’t understand what storms are, so it may take time for them to lose their fear completely.
  4. Distract him. Use this time to bring out your pet’s favorite toys for some playtime.
  5. Calming apparel. A Thundershirt can help calm your pet. The shirt targets various pressure points, creating a sensation similar to swaddling.
  6. Medication. Consult your veterinarian about medications that can help. There are also pet specific, natural calming solutions like nerve-calming herbs and pheromones, which are safe for dogs.
  7. Behavioral consultation. For advanced cases consider consulting an animal behavior specialist such as a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

It’s important for you to appear calm and upbeat throughout a storm. The best course of action is to console your dog, focus on safety, create a distraction and project confidence that "everything's fine" for your pet.

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