With warmer weather comes thunderstorms. And while many people sleep soundly during these weather events, even enjoying the thrum of raindrops on rooftops, our furry companions might not feel the same way.
About one-third of dogs experience stress and anxiety with thunderstorms being at the top of the list of anxiety-inducing situations. Their anxiety can stem from loud noises, changes in barometric pressure, static electricity or a past distressing experience with rainstorms. Thunderstorm anxiety can manifest as excessive salivation, shaking, pacing, licking of lips, destruction to self or property, inappropriate urination, defection and hiding.
If your pet gets thunderstorm anxiety, there are ways that you can help soothe them and make their experience as comfortable as possible.
Tips for Calming Your Dog During a Thunderstorm
- Provide a safe place
During a storm, have a calm place available in your home that your pet can retreat to such as a blanket-lined crate, dog bed or interior room. Bathrooms tend to be relatively sound-proof and well-suited for waiting out the rain.
Doggles (eyewear for dogs) and earmuffs are also available to minimize the visual and aural stimulation of a storm.
- Turn on background noise
Muffling the sound of thunder and the crash of lightning can be accomplished by playing music, using a white noise machine or turning on the television.
- Engage them in other activities
Engaging in indoor activities such as hide and seek or tug-of-war can help distract your pet and take their minds off of the rumbling weather conditions. Brushing your pet or giving them treat-dispensing puzzles or chew toys can keep them distracted, too.
- Dress for the occasion
Thundershirts or compression wear work by applying gentle, full-body pressure. It’s like a hug for your pet that is persistent and calming. Static-diminishing capes can also be worn if that is the source of your pet’s anxiety.
- Seek your vet’s recommendations
Natural calming aids are available over the counter and through your veterinarian’s office. L-theanine, lavender, pheromone spray diffusers or collars, CBD/hemp supplements or melatonin can offer relief.
Pets with escalating anxiety and those that are destructive or engage in self-harming behaviors might need prescription drugs to ride out the storm. Some of these medications are used on an as-needed basis and can be administered a few hours before an anxiety-inducing event.
Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pet natural, over-the-counter and/or prescription medication.
- Schedule playtime before the storm
During the rainy season, keep a close watch on the weather. Prior to an incoming storm, get your pup outside for some physical activity! Going on a run, playing fetch or taking them on an off-leash excursion to a dog park will tire them out and maximize the chances they will sleep through the storm. As always, a tired pet results in a happy dog and a happy owner.
- Do not reinforce unwanted behavior
Contrary to our natural instincts, it is counter-productive to soothe a fearful pet. Do not inadvertently reward unwanted behavior such as crying or shaking by reassuring your pet things will be ok. Such positive reinforcement can cause the behavior to persist or escalate.
At Pet Butler, we want your pet to live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. And we want you to be able to spend as much time with your furry companion as possible. So let us take care of the dirty work while you do the things you love. We’ll scoop your pet’s poop on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.