Help your pet cope with storm season

A fear of storms can develop in your pet at any age and as your pet ages they can become more susceptible. Veterinarians and animal behaviourists aren’t exactly sure what part of a storm causes animals the most stress.

Dogs in particular have special sensitivities that make storms even more terrifying. Dogs can sense the change in air pressure, and may hear low-frequency rumblings that humans can’t detect.

What are the symptoms?

If your pet hides, whines, scratches, trembles, slobbers or becomes panicked during a storm then they suffer from a fear of storms.

How can I help my pet cope?

  • Provide your pet a safe space inside, like a crate/cat carrier, cover this to create a den and leave the open so your pet doesn’t feel trapped. Alternatively, you can confine them to a small space or room to make them feel safe. Close the blinds so your pet can’t see outside.
  • Distract your pet by playing calming music to drown out the thunder claps. If your pet feels like playing, do so. You can also keep your pet distracted with treats and their favourite toys.
  • Prepare for the next storm by desensitising your pet with the sounds of a storm. Play these quietly to your pet in a calm situation, give them treats or play a fun game while the sound is on.  The goal is to help your pet relate the sound of thunderstorms with happy times.
  • For dogs, Thundershirts may reduce stress levels; these provide a sensation of pressure, which can ease your dog’s anxiety.
  • Speak to your veterinarian, in severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend a low dose of an anti-anxiety medication.

Most importantly, remember that this behaviour is not about disobedience, but about high levels of fear. Do anything you can to help your pet feel better and teach them new, pleasant associations is the best way to help anxious behaviour.