Storm season, commonly a spring or summer event, can be very frightening for our pets. Most people know they have a storm phobic dog or cat – these animals usually can be found cowering under a bed, or will not leave your side, drooling and shaking uncontrollably, when a storm is approaching. For some pets, the urge to escape is powerful, and they may bite or claw their way through doors, furniture, or even break windows in their attempts to outrun the storm. For this reason we strongly recommend that you check your pet's microchip registry details are up to date, as well as have a collar tag with your contact details, in the event that your pet does escape.
Signs of anxiety to look for in your dog include: panting, pacing, lip licking, shivering/shaking, drooling, vocalising, inappropriate toileting, constant attention seeking, hiding, and attempts to escape. Some dogs will be so stressed that they will not eat or interact with you.
What can be done to help?
- Most animals prefer to be in a safe place while the storm passes. It is best to leave your pet inside in a safe quiet area, or if they have been crate-trained, make their crate available as a refuge. If you cannot leave them inside, the garage is a great alternative, or ensure they have a sheltered area, such as a kennel under the eaves. If you are leaving them for a long time (going to work), make sure there is at least two sources of clean water, as some pets will accidentally knock over a bowl if they become panicked.
- If you are home when the storm hits, bring your pet inside, close off the windows and doors to reduce the visual stimulation, and remain calm. It is completely fine to reassure your pet if they are looking stressed, but do so in a composed manner. You want to reduce their anxiety rather than increasing it.
- Some animals will find music soothing so you can try leaving on the radio or a playlist at a moderate volume to drown out the storm noises.
- We have been getting some great feedback from our clients about a new natural calming supplement which has recently become available. It can be used both short-term and long-term to treat generalised anxiety as well as noise/storm phobias. If you think this over-the-counter medication may help your pet, please feel free to speak to one of our experienced nurses to find out more.
- Pheromone products (either plug-in or collars) are also available which work well in some animals to reduce their stress level.
- Some animals require the use of prescription behaviour modifying drugs to help reduce overall anxiety as well as affecting short-term memory to reduce the fear associated with storms. These are not suitable for all pets and usually work best when combined with a behaviour modification plan.
- Once storm season has passed, you may want to think about desensitisation. This is useful if your dog only reacts to the rumble of thunder, but otherwise seems unbothered in the hours leading up to the storm. This can be done using pre-recorded storm sounds on the internet, and while it takes several weeks, can help reduce the severity of the anxiety.
A full veterinary consultation is often needed to provide the most appropriate advice and combination of treatments for your pet. Remember, we are here to help. To make a booking for a veterinary consultation click here, or phone 07 3878 9766.