Hiding under the bed…shaking uncontrollably…pacing, panting, trembling …when your fur baby is frantic during a thunderstorm, it can be stressful for the both of you….
What makes your pet extra anxious during a storm and how can you help them cope? Let’s find out.
What makes my pet anxious?
Our pets’ hearing is far more sensitive than ours. That means our fur babies can hear a storm coming long before we do, and when it arrives, thunder is much louder to them than it is to us. When they hear loud noises, they react as if there is danger. When unsure of the location of the noise, a pet’s natural instinct is to seek a safe place.
Loud noises aren’t the only scary thing about storms. Storms can produce static electricity, which can run through a pet’s fur, creating uncomfortable feelings and even painful shocks if they come in contact with metal.
Some breeds are more likely to have storm anxiety. These include dog breeds like Australian Shepherds with double coats, and cats with long fur. In addition, dogs and cats who are naturally fearful, have separation anxiety, or hesitation around people are also more likely to be anxious about storms.
What are the signs of anxiety?
Pets show anxiety in many ways. Here are just a few of the signs you may notice:
- Drooling, panting, trembling, and ears back
- Hiding or trying to fit into tight spaces
- Moving close to a favorite person
- Whining, barking, pacing
- Scratching and acting out destructively
How can I help my pet?
Don’t worry, there are ways that you can calm your anxious pet the next time the thunder booms. Try to intervene early before the storm is in full swing. Reassure your fur baby in a low calm voice. High-pitched voices can cause our fur babies to panic. Plan to stay home with him or her, or ask someone else to do so. (An anxious pet left alone can cause some damage.)
Here’s what else you can do.
1. Set up a calming environment.
Pets sometimes seek shelter under your bed or in a closet. They feel safer in an enclosed space.
- Pay attention to where your dog or cat likes to go during a thunderstorm, and start with that space to set up a calming environment.
- If your dog is crate trained, you can set up its crate in the most soundproof room of the home.
- Try an interior room without windows so that your pet won’t see the flashes of lightning.
- Many pets stay away from carpets and fabric, due to the effect of static. Consider a space such as a bathroom. Your pet may even prefer to sleep in the tub.
- Leave the light and tv on so that the flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder are less noticeable. Close the blinds and drapes.
2. Distract and/or desensitize your pet.
If your pet isn’t too frantic, you may be able to distract him or her. Try any of the strategies below, and keep in mind that in between storms, you can work to desensitize pets to help them manage their future stress.
- Choose interactive toys. Play a game of indoor fetch or tug-of-war.
- Consider a high-value chew or a treat. Just make sure you’re not treating your pet every time he or she seems fearful or you are rewarding this behavior.
- Licking is a way for dogs and cats to calm themselves. Try giving your fur baby a licking pad with their favorite wet food or soft treat.
- Try giving your pet a calming massage.
- Desensitize your dog for future storms. Play a thunderstorm soundtrack on a low volume while giving your pet high-value treats and positive interactions. Over several weeks, gradually increase the volume. This can help lessen or even eliminate thunderstorm anxiety.
3. Try natural therapies.
There are several natural ways that you can help reduce the stress of a thunderstorm for your pet.
- If your pet’s anxiety is tied to static electricity in his or her fur, try a dryer sheet. Rub the sheet gently along your pet’s fur to cut down on the static. Choose an unscented brand, and do not let your fur baby chew or play with it.
- Try a thunder jacket. This type of pet clothing holds your pet snugly and helps them feel safe and secure. You can make your own with a t-shirt or sweatshirt. Put it over your dog’s head with the front/pattern across his/her back. Put the dog’s front legs through the armholes. Tie up any looseness toward the dog’s rump.
- Set up a white noise sound machine or play calming music.
- Add a soothing scent, such as a few drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball. Or try a dog or cat pheromone spray or collar that can help them to relax.
4. If all else fails, try prescription therapy.
In some cases, medication is needed to help keep your fur baby calm. You can try calming treats available at your local pet store or talk to your vet about whether your dog or cat is a candidate for an anxiety prescription.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.