What is Storm Phobia?
Thunderstorms, hurricanes, windstorms and tornados are not always predictable, making storm phobia a particularly difficult fear to manage in pets. And for owners whose pets exhibit these fears, it can be equally distressing. Not only can the pets show signs of nervousness (such as pacing, panting, chewing and drooling), they can 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 your pet maintain calmness during storms:
1. Leave Your Pet at Home
If your local weather forecast is calling for thunderstorms, 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, can 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 help keep your pet calm and relaxed.
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 natural dog toys can help take their mind off 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
Natural supplements for dogs and alternative approaches, like homeopathy for dogs and aromatherapies, can be help maintain a normal and relaxed disposition. 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 options.