Summer is finally here, but it can mean fear of thunderstorms for our furry friends. Signs of thunderstorm anxiety can include pacing, panting, salivating, hiding, clingy, and destructive behavior. Some dogs can even cause physical harm to themselves. While some dogs are fearful of storms at a young age, others can develop thunderstorm phobia later in life and seemingly out of nowhere. Here are a few steps you can take to help your pet through the storm season.
1) Thunderstorm music: During the off-season CDs of thunderstorm music can be used to desensitize dogs. This does not work for all dogs and must be done carefully as to not make anxiety worse. Please consult a veterinarian or certified behaviorist if you are planning to attempt desensitization. Music should be started very quietly, at a volume that the dog is not showing any signs of anxiety. The volume is slowly increased while giving rewards, usually treats, to the dog. This process is continued over weeks. Desensitization is a very slow process and going too quickly can cause major setbacks. It is common to have setbacks (showing signs of anxiety) and when this decrease the volume of the music until the dog is no longer anxious.
2.) Create a safe place: Go with your dog into an interior room with no windows or close the blinds if an interior room is not available, create a cave or something for your dog to hide under, use a large fan to create white noise or play classical music to drown out the sounds of the storm, if they are clawing to get out of a crate let them out as dogs will break their nails and teeth if they are frantically clawing at the bars.
3.) Reward calm behavior: Find a high value treat that your pet will eat when nervous. Not all dogs will take treats if they are very anxious, but here are a few options to try – boiled chicken, baby food, pliable treats, Vienna sausages
4.) Thundershirt or Storm Defender Cap: The Thundershirt is a tight fitting wrap that is calming for some dogs with thunderstorm anxiety. The Storm Defender Cap works by dissipating the static charge that can develop during storms and works the best in dogs that try to get in the bathtub during storms.
5.) Medications: Many dogs benefit from anti-anxiety medications for thunderstorm phobia. There are multiple options available including long-term and as needed pills and a new oral gel, Sileo. This new sedation medication has just been released and we will see how it works for thunderstorms this summer. Please consult with your veterinarian about the best medication for your dogs.
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