What is Storm Phobia?
Thunderstorms, hurricanes, windstorms and tornados are not always predictable, making storm phobia a particularly difficult fear to treat in pets. And for owners whose pets exhibit these fears, it can be equally distressing. Not only do the pets show signs of nervousness (such as pacing, panting, chewing and drooling), they will also display behavioral signs (like hiding, owner seeking, trembling, vocalizing, trying to escape, and destruction). This can be even more upsetting and even dangerous, as phobic dogs have been known to break through screen doors or windows in an attempt to escape, causing serious injury in the process.
Here are our top seven tips to help keep your pet calm and safe during storms:
1. Leave Your Pet at Home
If your local weather forecast is calling for thunerstorms, leave your pets at home and indoors. When pets are scared, especially from a loud thunder crack, they could be tempted to run. If they're safe at home, you'll greatly reduce the opportunity for them to run away.
2. Muffle the Noise
Close all doors and windows and put on background music to help muffle the sound. Obviously, our pets are very sensitive to noise, but if you can dampen the thunder (especially before the storm comes), you can less the severity of their nervousness.
3. Don't Let Them See the Lightning
Our pets are great at associations and know that with lightning comes thunder and vice versa. If you know a storm is on the way, close the curtains and blinds to block the lightning.
4. Prepare for the Worst
Even if your pet is safely indoors, you never know what can happen. If your pet is startled by thunderstorms, be sure that they're wearing identification tags or have microchips in case they do run away or get lost.
5. Try to Distract
Trying to distract your pet with chew toys and games can help take their mind off of the storm until it passes. Another pet that does not share thunderstorm fear can also help normalize the situation.
6. Work on Desensitization & Normalization
If you have time, desensitization techniques with appropriate sounds of thunder, fireworks, trains, sirens, etc. may help pets get used to the sounds at a lower volume. Then, as they become more comfortable, gradually increase the volume. As you increase the volume, praise normal behavior with treats. If your pet gets nervous, lower the volume and start over the next day at a lower volume.
7. Supplements & Medications
Non-sedative supplements and alternative remedies, like homeopathics and aromatherapies, can be helpful for mild to moderate storm anxiety. Make sure you check activation times on these so your pet can be calm when the storm arrives. If the storm is already there, it might be too late. If your pet has severe storm anxiety and phobia, check with your holistic veterinarian about medication.