Jul 13 2017

Tips for Soothing Your Dog’s Fear of Thunder | Winslow Animal Hospital Dog & Cat

As we have previously discussed with fireworks, pets can have anxious responses to loud noises.  One of the major differences between these two phenomena is the change of barometric pressure that typically comes with a thunderstorm.  Pets can sometimes sense this pressure change that predicts rain.  Fireworks have no warning, which can make them more disorienting and frightening for pets. On the other hand, a pet that has learned to fear thunderstorms may become more anxious even before the noise begins as they detect the change in barometric pressure.

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1. Lead with Calm Control

Our dogs are highly social, and they will take cues from you – to a degree.  You may not be able to silence your rambunctious pet with a single look, but your bond with your pet is powerful nonetheless.  By maintaining control of yourself and moving calmly throughout your environment, you signal to your dog that everything is ok. They don’t need to be afraid.

2. Prepare by Desensitization

You can get ahead of the next thunderstorm by desensitizing your pet now! Play thunderstorm sounds on your computer or phone while you are at home with your pet. If your pet seems distressed, turn down the volume and direct your pet’s focus to food, treats, toys, play, or praise. When thunder sounds are associated with fun experiences, it stops being so scary. Gradually work the volume up higher so that your pet is not so bothered when a real thunderstorm comes.


3. Switch to a Different Environment

You might have a pet who loves to hang out by the door, barking at strangers, looking out the windows, awaiting your return with baited breath. This sort of environment that your pet normally enjoys may be unpleasant during a thunderstorm. Windows pelted with rain and loud thunder crashes may be very upsetting for your pet. Instead, move to an internal room that’s less noisy. A bathroom may be more suitable for some pets. You can play calm music, switch on a fan, or have some other source of white noise to reduce the impact of the thunder.


4. Provide Extra Exercise

When thunderstorms are predicted, get your pet out of the house for a little extra exercise before the clouds roll in.  A few extra laps around the block or rounds of fetch will get some of the nervous energy out and help a pet feel more relaxed.  A well-exercised pet is more likely to take a nap than one who has been kept still all day.

5. Distract Your Pet

Be careful about coddling your frightened pet during a thunderstorm. If you do so, you may be reinforcing anxious behaviors and reinforcing the idea that the thunderstorm is something to be frightened of.  Instead, try playing with toys or doing some other activity that your pet enjoys. That way, when you praise, pet, and give attention to your pet, it is immediately following more desirable behaviors instead of fearful, anxious, or even destructive behaviors.

6. Try Products Designed to Reduce Anxiety

As others have wrestled with these same problems, companies have responded by selling products that may provide relief for your pet.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to anxiety, but there are products such as herbal remedies that can be found over the counter that could potentially be helpful, depending on your own pet’s needs.

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7. Talk to Your Veterinarian

If your pet responds to thunderstorms in a more extreme manner that is upsetting to you, talk to your veterinarian about it. The expertise that our Sicklerville, New Jersey veterinarians provide for South Jersey dogs and cats isn’t just orthopedic surgeries to repair ACL tears or providing wellness exams. It also includes medication, behavioral counseling and acupuncture that may be helpful for your family.

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