Pets and Storm Phobia

By
Team First Class
March 17, 2019

Pets and Storm Phobia

As owners of fur-babies we know how distressing it can be for Pets and Storm Phobia. Sometimes it is a bad combination indeed. Have you ever wondered why your pet has a fear of storms, what to do during a storm and how to help weaken their response?

Why do pets fret in storms?
Some dogs are more prone to storm phobias then others, studies show that dogs that have some sort of separation anxiety are likely to have a storm phobia. So what is a phobia? they are the exaggerated irrational response to something, this is regardless of whether or not they actually caused harm to the individual. Dogs and cats have a greater sense of hearing and smell which can be why they can detect changes in weather long before we can.

What are the triggers?
Triggers can be varying from pet to pet, but could be as simple as the rustle of leaves being blown around the neighbourhood. Or the a change in barometric pressure, lightening or even small rain showers.

Symptoms
Some pets may show the following signs

  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Hyper-salivation
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Urination
  • Defecation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Freezing/immobility
  • Vocalisation
  • Escape behaviours
  • Pupil Dilation

How do you help treat it?

During the storm:

  • You can provide a safe environment for them. If they try to escape then placing them inside secured either in a room or safe location can help to prevent them from getting lost or worse hit by a car. If you are home some pets find comfort in being touched such as often some of them do, they will seek you to sit on your lap. They are comforted by a hug as there are some pressure points that will help to calm some babies. If this sounds like your dog does it might be worth trying a thunder jacket. (for more information on the jacket click here) Some pets have a safe area at home, if they are happy there let them be and provide some comfort through words or light calm pats if required.
  • Close all the windows and curtains so that the lightening flashes are less for your pet.
  • Move your pet to a quiet unaffected area if possible.
  • Essential oils used in calming collars/sprays/diffuses for your pet these are Adaptil for dogs (click here) or Feliway for cats (click here)
  • Medications provided by your vet.

After the storm:

There are a few things you can try to do to attempt to keep your pet happy. These things could include:

  • Desensitisation: to do this it is exposing your pet to what they are afraid of at a very low level so that they are not scared. You can play a storm audio file at a low volume during an activity that they like, playing/eating once they are comfortable you can increase the volume little by little. This is for those that are worried about the sound only, it is hard to help those with pressure changes.
  • Counter-conditioning: is the act of providing a positive with their negative. So playing a storm audio file and playing with them or feeding them treats. This is where distraction is key, getting your pet to focus on something other than the storm.
  • Relaxation: This is a technique that takes time and repetition. The idea is to settle and relax on their bed and once this is completed, add scary sounds. Giving calm commands such as lie down, settle and a treat can help to reinforce this calm behaviour.
  • Medications: Medications can work well, some however either require long term use or to be given an hour before the storm. Both of these forms of medications require a vet prescription.

For More Information on Storms

There is a great PDF of storms and pets available from the RSPCA click the link at the bottom of the RSPCA’s website here

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