Helping Your Dog Through Storm Season
Many dogs are afraid of sudden, loud, and unpredictable noises, such as thunderstorms and fireworks. This fear is typically associated with the change in atmospheric pressure, clapping of thunder, and flashes of lighting, although dogs may show fear responses well before the storm approaches, even with the sound of rain, the sound of wind, darkening of clouds, or humidity changes that normally accompany or precede a storm.
For some dogs, storm phobias and separation anxiety may co-exist. When an owner is present, their fear response may not be as pronounced then when they are on their own. When a pet is scared, you may notice them acting restless, hiding, shaking uncontrollably, barking, howling, pacing, drooling, and wanting to be near to you for comfort. In the more extreme cases, dogs can be at risk of injury as they try and escape the fearful stimulus, and they can unintentionally hurt those in their surroundings or even damage property.
It is always important to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian to help you create a plan specific to your pet. Not all dogs will require medication and for those that do, the aim of managing a storm phobia behaviourally is to change the dogs emotional state from frightened and distressed to neutral and content. First of all, it is important that a dog behaving fearfully is never punished, as this will only heighten their distress and will not calm them. Create an environment that is safe and secure - that is, an environment where they are unable to dig their way out, jump over/ through fences or break through glass doors to escape. This may mean keeping your dog in a well-ventilated room, switching lights on, or simply closing curtains and blinds to reduce/block out flashes of light. Turn on the television or playing music that is loud or has white noise can be a good way to muffle any outside noise. Avoid praising and comforting your dog too much during a storm as this attention can unintentionally reward their fearful behaviour. A more effective way to avoid ignoring your pet and without rewarding any fearful or anxious behaviour is to distract your pet by playing with them or giving them chew toys or toys with food inside. At the same time, it is important that you try and ignore the fearful noises yourself.
Ensure microchip details are up to date so if your dog gets lost and the chip is scanned at a vet or a shelter, you are able to be reunited with your lost pet without a delay. We often see the chip detail is linked to a dog’s breeder or old contact detail of a client which defeats the purpose of having the microchip. If you find a dog wandering the street on its own and if it is safe to do so, approach the “lost” dog and take them to your nearest vet to have their microchip scanned so that they can be re-united with their owner.
Thunder jackets can be placed prior to a storm and work by applying pressure to pressure points on the body and can be successful in some cases. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is available as a diffuser and as a collar, releasing pheromones similar to that released by their mothers when they were puppies, and acts on the brain to create a sense of calm and security. Zylkene, a milk protein derivative, may offer some relief in mild phobias/anxiety, provided long term daily intake has commenced at least one month prior to storm season. For more severe cases, your veterinarian can discuss whether a short acting or long term anxiolytic (must be trialled for at least 1-2 months prior to storm season to be effective) would be recommended for your dog.
If you would like more information or book a consultation, feel free to give us a call at 0448 751 354 and speak to one of our friendly staff.