Thunderstorm phobia is a difficult and sometimes dangerous issue for pets and their owners. Some dogs tolerate storms better than others. Hiding, pacing, and whining are some of the easier symptoms for an owner to endure, while the more extreme symptoms are much more dangerous and destructive. Some dogs may destroy furniture or even tear through doors and walls, while other dogs with extreme storm phobia may cause physical harm to themselves or their owners. It is easy to feel defeated when trying to battle a phobia that is caused by a natural occurrence in nature, but there are plenty of tips, tricks, and products designed to alleviate stress and anxiety in our terrified four-legged friends.
While consulting with your local veterinarian or behaviorist should be the first step to taking action, there are a few things to remember while at home. When your pooch is having a mild or severe panic attack from the storm outside it is important for you, the owner, to stay calm. HealthyPet.com has a great website discussing home techniques more in detail, but it is important to not cuddle your dog while they are afraid. It is hard for owners to not reassure their pets while they are nervous, but while babying them you will only be rewarding them for their behavior. On an opposite note, do not punish your dog for being scared, just remain calm and understanding.
One product on the market that has gotten a lot of positive feedback is the Thunder Shirt. The Thunder Shirt is a drug-free option to treating anxiety. The Thunder Shirt creates constant (yet gentle) pressure on your pet acting as almost a constant hug. It is thought that the constant pressure on the torso has a calming effect on the pet’s nervous system. Items similar to the Thunder Shirt have been used on some autistic or behavioral problem children with similar effects.
However, some pets need good, old-fashioned, medicating to deal with their severe anxiety. There is CLOMICALM that is a safe anxiety medication that has minimal side effects. Reconcile is another product used for anxiety (especially separation anxiety). Reconcile has a few serious side effects and should not be given to dogs who have a history of seizures and usually pets should have had their annual wellness blood work checked before being prescribed this medication. Finally, Alprazolam (or Xanax) can also be administered for dogs who just need something to get them through the rainy season or 4th of July fireworks. It is important not to keep a pet chronically on Alprazolam because it can be habit forming and have some side effects.
By educating yourself on these topics and consulting with your local veterinarian and/or behaviorist you and your pet(s) can have a safe and relaxing storm season!