Does your pet suffer from storm phobia?

Every year in storm season we see a significant number of our canine companions suffering from storm phobias. So what is “storm phobia”? Basically it is a disorder where there is a persistent and exaggerated fear of storms. Cats and dogs suffer from this phobia but we see the effects in dogs more often.

Often the stimulus that brings on this fear in dogs can be rain, lightning, strong winds, thunder and changes in barometric pressure, which the dogs can feel before the storm hits. Owners who have dogs suffering from storm phobias notice their dogs becoming anxious sometimes hours before the storm arrives and if they are home can implement some measures to ease the dogs fear levels.

Some signs that your pet is suffering from storm phobias include:

  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Trembling
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hiding or remaining close to the owner
  • Destruction of property

Behaviourists have studied this phobia in animals for many years and still the exact cause is unknown. Some factors may include:

  • Lack of exposure to storms early in their development
  • Unintentional reinforcement by owners
  • A genetic predisposition for reacting emotionally
  • A negative experience during a storm

So what can we do to help our beloved ones to get through this phobia without them causing injury to themselves?

• Try to be home with your pet if possible.
• Place your dog in a soundproof den or enclosure during the storm. This is their safe place.
• Practice calming strategies before storm season. Show your dog that you are calm by blinking your eyes, yawning and show a soft smile.
• Do not leave them outside during a thunderstorm. Always give them access to an inside place they can hide.

There are many ‘over the counter’ products available to try such as thunderstorm jackets, pheromone sprays, diffusers or collars & homeopathic anti-anxiety drops. If you have tried these products and have not been successful then we recommend owners bring their pet in for a consultation with a veterinarian, as they may need certain medications to help them become less anxious. Some dogs may never get over their fear but we can try to desensitise them to the storms.

If you need further help please contact King Street Veterinary Hospital on 02 66724322.