14 Apr How to care for your dog during storms: Top tips from a Capalaba boarding kennel.
Is a boom of thunder enough to incite panic in your pooch? Does a crack of lightning make your dog agitated, scared or panicked?
For many dogs, even minor storms can be enough to send them spiralling into anxiety. As a pet owner, it can be heartbreaking to see your best friend so distressed by something so seemingly small.
So let’s jump into the ‘why’ of storm-induced panic in pets and what you can do to treat their troubles.
Why do some dogs get distressed during storms?
Thunderstorm phobia in dogs is a very real condition and without addressing the issue, it will likely worsen.
According to Matt Peuser, a veterinarian at Olathe Animal Hospital in America, “Most of the time they don’t grow out of it on their own, and many will get worse with time if nothing is done”.
While there’s still a lot to learn about what the exact triggers are that set off storm-induced panic in dogs, many top vets believe that it’s a perfect storm of wind, thunder, lightning, pressure changes, static electricity and low frequency sounds that cause stress in dogs but cannot be heard with the naked human ear.
Some experts suggest that dogs may double-down on their storm stress when they touch their nose up against something metal and receive a light shock. This small discomfort has the capacity to grow into a full-scale phobia.
While the ‘why’ is still yet to be mapped out exactly, there’s plenty of ways that you can help your dog to stay calm during storms, even without knowing the exact triggers.
What can I do to help my dog during a storm?
Our boarding kennel near Capalaba has seen plenty of storm phobia in dogs firsthand. According to Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviourist at Tufts University, dogs will often seek out hiding places that are naturally grounded against electric shocks. Places such as bathtubs, jacuzzis and the space behind the toilet tank are all popular places for a terrified pooch to hole up. So, to help mitigate your pet’s storm-phobia, Dodman recommends doing the following:
#1 Purchase your dog an anti-static jacket
Anti-static jackets for dogs, like the Storm Defender, are designed to protect dogs against the static electricity that builds up during thunderstorms. By wrapping your dog up, your dog feels shielded against static electricity and over time will become less panicked at the first sign of a thunderstorm.
#2 Watch for signs that indicate separation anxiety
Watch your pet for signs that indicate they are suffering from separation anxiety that may be exacerbated by a storm. If you aren’t sure which signs are indicative of this bigger issue, consider videotaping your pet next time they are panting, pacing or restless during a storm. Show the tape to your vet upon your next visit for advice on what to do next.
#3 Let the dog decide where they feel safe and then make that space even more comfortable
It’s important to give your pet the freedom to decide where it feels safe. If they have taken off to a spot where they feel most comfortable (often it will be the bathroom or a small corner room), support them by adding in some white noise to cover up the claps of thunder or create a level of soundproofing with acoustic tiling.
#4 Discuss medication with your vet
Of course, there is always the option of medication. This should be discussed with your vet. If your dog suffers extreme panic during storms, anti-anxiety medication can go a long way in improving your pet’s happiness and quality of life.
Having a pet that is spooked by a storm is unpleasant for both you and them. Helping them overcome their anxiety is one of the kindest things you can do as a pet owner. Start with trying an anti-static vest, keep an eye on their behaviour to ensure it isn’t reminiscent of separation anxiety, keep them comfortable and if you feel it’s best for them, discuss options for medication with your vet. No dog should ever have to feel the crippling weight of storm phobia.
Our boarding kennel near Capalaba has a wealth of experience in dealing with pets.
Check out the rest of the Castelan Blog for tips and tricks on how to help your cat or dog get more out of life.