Summer is almost here, and with it, summertime thunderstorms! Do your pets start trembling the moment they hear the low rumbling of thunder in the distance? Dogs and cats can sense a storm's approach by the rapidly changing atmosphericic pressure, and so can begin to show signs of distress even before the storm can be heard. But good news! While thunderstorms can instill fear in our pets, we've listed some simple steps to help you manage their fears and feel calmer through all the noise and bright flashes.
A dog with storm phobia may start to show stress signals such as panting, pacing or become panicked during a storm. In fact, some dogs will do just about anything to escape from the noise – even if it means jumping the fence. This could result in your dog becoming lost (or injured!) so it is crucial that they are microchipped, and that your contact details are always kept up to date. A collar with an ID tag is also a great idea.
If you know a storm is approaching, and your dog must be outside, be sure that they have warm shelter to stay dry and that the yard is secure – no holes or easy places for your dog to sneak through!
Keep them safe
For a pet who already fears thunderstorms, being alone can make them feel a whole lot worse. If bad weather is in the forecast, try to be home or have someone stay with your dog during the storm. If your dog usually lives outside, bring them inside until the storm passes.
Inside your home, create a quiet den-like area where your dog can feel secure. When a storm is coming, lead your dog to their special place to help him feel calm and safe and be sure to include their favourite toy or treats. Some dogs become destructive when frightened. A properly introduced crate is always the best way to keep your dog safe and your belongings intact. If you don't use a crate, remove any items in the room that your dog could destroy or which could hurt them if chewed.
Give your pet the comfort and attention they need to calm their stress. An anxious pet is unable to learn due to being overly stimulated and emotional, which means comforting is not rewarding the fear. Try a calming massage to help them relax during the storm.
During a storm, keep windows and curtains closed to reduce noise and bright flashes. Turn on a TV or radio playing soft music at normal volume to distract your dog and help them to relax. If your dog will still engage, try a game of indoor fetch, tug, or offer a high-value chew. Why not give them a treat-filled kong to distract them?
Speak to your vet
For mild to moderate cases of storm distress, some natural therapies can be highly effective. For the highly-stressed dog who doesn't respond to the above methods, medication in conjunction with training may be the best solution to help your dog cope with their fear of storms. Consult with your veterinarian about possible treatments.