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Thunderstorm Phobias in Dogs

Thunderstorm Phobias in DogsDepending on where you live in Canada, thunderstorms can happen frequently or rarely. Despite the number of storms you experience, thunderstorm phobias can be debilitating for many dogs. Dogs that are afraid of thunderstorms are more than just anxious. They’re drooling, shaking, and howling while frantically digging their way through your carpet or making themselves as small as possible in the corner of your bathroom.

There are a number of factors that can influence the development of this phobia in dogs, and it’s usually more than just a severe reaction to loud noises. Some of these dogs may be very sensitive to the changes in barometric pressure, static electricity in the air, and/or the smell of ozone produced by lightning. They can predict storms well before us humans notice the changes in our environment that signal oncoming weather changes.

Before or during a thunderstorm, some dogs will press against metal radiators, hide between the toilet and the bathtub or actually jump into the bathtub to try and “escape” the storm. There are commercial “storm jackets” on the market that can contain materials to help diffuse static against a dog’s skin, or “hug” the dog to help them self-soothe during these times of extreme stress.

Our own responses to a dog’s bahaviour may also influence a dog experiencing thunderstorm phobia. It’s important to maintain a calm, loving, and patient attitude. A soothing demeanour will go a long way to teach your loved one that he or she has nothing to worry about. Physical or verbal punishment, of course, has no place in dealing with these issues.

Finding a “safe” place in your home can offer relief for many dogs. Pet parents will often use the basement or another room where they can block sounds and light from the phobic dog. Using white noise or music to counteract the sounds of thunder may be helpful, but generally only work in conjunction with other forms of therapy as given by your veterinarian. Active play and obedience sessions may distract a dog who is mildly affected.

Where these techniques do not work alone or where the pet may harm themselves or others because of their distress, veterinarians may prescribe specific medications to help moderate the emotional, physical, and mental responses to storms. Your veterinarian is the best person to offer you advice on any medical or behavioural condition from which your pet is suffering. Your doctor may also refer you to a dedicated specialist in your area who can provide advanced care for canine storm phobia therapy.