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Is your Dog Afraid of Storms?

scared-petThunderstorms and other types of severe weather conditions are an issue in various areas across the country.  Even if a storm does not do a lot of damage, some dogs find the thunder, lightening, changes in atmospheric pressure, and/or electrical charges associated with a storm absolutely terrifying.  Storm phobias are very common in dogs and this fear tends to worsen as dogs age.

For an owner with a dog with a storm phobia, the first sign that bad weather is approaching is often seeing their beloved pooch start to pant, pace, drool, and eventually run for cover.  It’s heartbreaking to witness a dog become fearful of a storm, but help is available.

  • Some owners report excellent results with tightly-fitting Thundershirts that apply reassuring pressure around a dog’s body.
  • Pheromones or homeopathic preparations may also promote a sense of calm.
  • If all else fails, make an appointment with a veterinarian specializing in behavioral medicine.  He or she will be able to assess your dog’s situation and recommend behavior modification techniques and possibly anti-anxiety medications tailored to your dog’s specific needs.
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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • lisa evans May 6, 2011, 9:51 am

    my poor dog was petrified of storms, i felt so bad for her, i tried everything. but i never tried to give anti anxiety medications, because in my opinion they are still afraid, just cant move to show it.

  • Cheryl Jones May 6, 2011, 10:07 am

    Our vet has suggested a Benadryl. While it will not make them unable to move (!) it does seem to have a calming effect. And no, she does not go to sleep.

  • Erin Bailey May 6, 2011, 6:52 pm

    I have used anxiety meds for my shih-tzu…. It really does help and allows me to get some sleep at night. He doesn’t seem to get as scared during the day… So he mostly just lays near if I happen to be home.

  • GAYLE June 3, 2011, 8:41 am

    My little Jack Russell was hiding in any closed area she could find and would not come out so I decided to move her carrier into the family room and place it between the couch and the otterman.She will go in it and hide in the very back of it. It seems to satisfy her.

  • diana June 3, 2011, 1:22 pm

    I rescue and have a 10 year old Shitzu Poodle mix that is terrified of storms – what I have found that works is disassociation. During a storm, confine the dog to a small area that you are in. Give it a special longer lasting bone or treat ball of sorts – I put cream cheese and a couple little treats inside of a white hard bone and froze them. When it storms, take it out and give it to the dog. Do this the first couple of storms and the dog will start associating storms with a good thing instead of a bad thing. You won’t always have to give a treat, it will just break the behavior by training this way. I also gave the denta treats as well – anything that would take a while to chew and something he views as a special treat. It took a few storms – but he was trained after that. Now storms mean something good in his mind instead of the instablility in his body it would cause from fear. It’s worth a try. They love peanut butter kong filled treats – just make sure it last a while during the storm and stay “good boy” or girl during the storm and the treat process. Hope this helps.

  • Ann, vet tech June 5, 2011, 3:49 pm

    I have adopted several dogs that have a fear of thunderstorms. They are better than the National Weather service in predicting if a storm will come over our house. In mild anxiety cases, going to the basement and having background noise like a fan, dehumidifier, or dryer on can help keep their mind off the noise of the storm. Usually the anxiety goes up with the severity of the storm. Natural calming treats containing valarian may help. These have to be given at least an hour pior to the storm to have any effect. If the dog’s anxiety level is already so high that they have shut down on eating this won’t help. The most effective tool I’ve found is putting a snug coat on the dog. My lab had a neoprene vest for going in cold water. It is close fitting around the body and gives a secure feeling to the dog. I don’t recommend sedatives like acepromazine. They slow down muscle movements but don’t slow down brain activity. How much more anxiety could be caused by not being able to move but knowing a storm is bearing down on you and you can’t get away? This could make the anticipation of the next storm worse.

    • Midge D September 18, 2014, 8:52 pm

      I had a service dog whom I conditioned to associate storms = “good”. This (treat centered) method as you described did work. However, when Henya got to be about 6 years old, pending doom seemed to return to her in anticipation of a storm.I’ve read that older dogs sometimes become more sensitive to storm activity and loud noises as they age. Could be. My pooch developed a fear of fireworks sounds, loud trash collection trucks, etc. at about the same time. But kuddos to you for bringing a most effective and sensible way to deal with our pooches’ sense fears. Thanks!!

  • Jodi Pirelli August 25, 2011, 6:52 am

    My sih tzu is really having a hard time with thunderstorms, lightening, and worse right now is the approaching Hurricane and that is still a few days from us…. Ihave tried over the counter Claming all natural and they really work, you can give one ro two if needed in real stressful sitautions and they do take a few minutes to a half hour to work but they reallyhelp her out…thatused with her THUNDERSHIRT..is a must for us….. the shirt is the best money ever spent…. ~~

  • Kate Glenn September 16, 2014, 6:14 am

    I’ve been a prof. pet sitter for 4 yrs and cared for all stages of ‘Sound Anxieties’ with Pets. What I have found is a combination of a torso ace wrap (same effect as a thunder shirt for less), scent therapy (a few drops each of lavender, frankincense on a rag near them), Sound therapy (loud TV, Radio, etc). They hear and sense these weather incidents bigger than we do. I’ve also used Melatonin and Benadryl (ask Vet for Dosage: Wt/Age considerations apply). In my case, I always ask each Pet Parent to leave a scent kit (stinky shirts, one for each day away) to calm and reassure Animals they are coming back.

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