It’s that time of year again: Monsoon season is here. That means loud thunderstorms will hit the Valley. Many pets, mostly dogs, are afraid of thunderstorms. This is one of the most common phobias that pets and their owners face.
If you and your pet have never been through a storm together, make sure to keep a close eye on them! There are many anxiety signs that your pet may exhibit before or during a thunderstorm. Some pets start to pant, tremble, hide, pace, bark or start being disruptive when they know a storm is coming. These signs can continue throughout the duration of the storm and pets who suffer from separation anxiety often act more anxious when they are alone during storms.
To help your pet, you can find a safe place for them to relax and “hide” from the storm. This area should be readily available, especially if you are not going to be home. Closing doors and windows or playing music can be very helpful to reduce the noise of the storm. You could try distracting your pet by coaxing them to play during a storm, which could be an effective way to keep them calm.
Another way to help your pet is using a technique called “systematic desensitization.” This helps pets with their anxiety by exposing them to some elements of thunderstorms. For example, playing a recording of light rain and thunder and rewarding your dog with a treat when they show no anxiety is a good start.
There is a product called the “Thunder Shirt” that has had many wonderful reviews. This is a jacket that is designed to be tight to create a sense of security for your pet by applying comforting pressure. You can place it on your pet at the first signs of anxiety and it is designed to help calm them down. The jacket is made for dogs and cats of all sizes! For more information, visit their website at http://www.thundershirt.com/.
There are a few things that you should avoid doing when your dog is scared during a thunderstorm. Do NOT put your pet in a crate. Your pet will still be very fearful in the crate, maybe even more than normal, and could potentially injure themselves trying to escape. They may develop a fear of the crate if they are always put in a crate during a storm. Do NOT punish your pet for being scared as this will only cause them to be more scared. On the other hand, don’t try to console your pet too much as they will see this as reinforcement and you inadvertently reward the behavior. Lastly, do NOT force your pet to get too close to the sounds that scare them. This is not a helpful solution and could possibly cause your pet to become aggressive.
Sometimes medication is necessary to help with the anxiety. Natural and herbal remedies can be helpful, but for severe anxiety prescription medications might be needed. El Dorado Animal Hospital offers behavioral consultations to discuss phobias and anxiety, and can help you choose a medical remedy for the behavior.
Visit Weather.com for more helpful tips on keeping your pet safe and calm during thunderstorms!
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