Do you have a pet that exhibits any unusual behaviour during a bad thunderstorm? Here’s some advice to help your pets get through the thunderstorm season.
If you live in Aussie you will be all to familiar with the sudden darkening of clouds and the rumble of thunder above after a scorching hot day. But what about our pets? Ever noticed Rover go dashing under the bed shaking? Or heading for the shower? The sink? Or even under the toilet bowl?
Well you are not alone. Many pets suffer from some form of storm phobia. Ranging from the extreme to the mild. My dear friend’s Staffy suffers from terrible anxiety when it comes to storms. So bad that he’s destroyed many doors in an attempt to outrun the darn things! Once he jumped through a second story window and ended up running across two major highways to find a safe place under a couch in someone’s ‘man-cave’!
Luckily for his owners, as Gussy has aged (and his hearing has faded) so have some of the bad symptoms of his anxiety. However, his owners have taken steps to manage his problem, throughout his life, allowing him to feel at ease during storm activity.
Obviously this is the extreme end of thunderstorm fear in dogs, but many of us can admit to noticing strange behaviour in our pets before or during a thunderstorm.
Get Your Freak On
So what is it about thunderstorms that can send our dogs and cats into a panic? And…how do they know a storm is coming?
- Thunder: The most common is the noise. Just the shear-frightening thump of thunder and crack of lightening can startle your pet into some unrest. The continuing rumbles can then leave your animal feeling uneasy, as they await that next crack of deafening thunder.
- Familiar Sounds: Your companion animal may also become anxious when the storm is approaching when they can hear the familiar sounds of rain and wind that are common with storms.
- Changes in barometric pressure: our pets can sense storms long before they hit. Dogs and cats that suffer from storm phobia can pick up on these subtle changes and may start acting strangely as the storm approaches. Humans can also suffer from headaches from changes in barometric pressure. Dogs in particular are very sensitive to the drop in barometric pressure and the changes in electricity and air pressure.
- Darkening Skies: Similar to the sound of rain and wind, the sudden darkening of the sky during the day may also set your pet off with some form of anxiety.
- Smells: Many times I’ve heard myself say; “hmm smells like rain” and I’m a mere human. Your dog can smell scents that not even us humans could (or would want to for that matter). So your pet can smell the rain and the storm, long before it has arrived.
So what should you do if your animal really freaks out during a storm? First lets look at the symptoms of sheer fear and anxiety:
- Rapid or excessive panting
- Destructive Behaviour
If your pet is showing some of these symptoms during a storm, and they are causing your animal stress it’s important to speak with your vet. There are many treatment options available to animals that suffer from bad anxiety during storms. Treatments from desensitization programs and behaviour modification can see great results in many pets suffering with the onset of thunderstorm phobias.
What Can You Do?
After a good vet check the following things can help an animal that is suffering from anxiety caused by storms.
- Safe Room: Consider having a safe room or an area you can pop your pet in during predicted storms. This could be a laundry, bathroom or even a kennel in a safe area. Think about playing some music, like classical music that can drone out the sound. Have plenty of hidey-holes in the room, washing baskets on their sides lined with towels etc. Animals will tend to hide in areas like showers, near sinks, toilets, or areas with metal pipes as this disturbs the static electricity charges that are present in bad storms. Some animals actually get a static charge from thunderstorms. Our old cat used to walk around with all of his hair standing on end and hide under the sink during a storm. It never seemed to bother him too much, however it was quite a sight.
- Products: You can now purchase many over the counter products that can help. The pheromone diffusers (that plug into walls) can help ease many pets anxiety and calm stressed pets (chat with your vet clinic). There are now even storm jackets on the market for dogs that you can pop on your pet during a storm. They mimic the feeling of being cuddled that can help ease anxiety.
Either way as the weather gets wilder, make sure you keep an eye on your pets and if you think your pet is struggling head off to your vet for a check up. Getting on top of anxiety early can help stop it escalating into a full-blown, life-long problem.
A BIT ABOUT THE BLOGGER:
Nadia Crighton is a well-known and accomplished Australian Journalist and pet magazine Editor. As a busy mum of four humans, two dogs, 50 sheep, three cats, a handful of chickens and a goat named Billy, she simply adores animals and pets.