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Pet Health Care & News

Thunderstorm and Noise Phobia

 Every year many of us living in the southwest look forward to the monsoon season, the lightening, rain, and cloud formations are an awe-inspiring sight.  However, for many pet owners and their dogs, it can be the worst season because of their pet’s storm phobia.

 

thunderstorm

Thunderstorm or noise phobia affects many dogs and can get worse as your pet ages.  With symptoms ranging from panting, trembling, hiding, pacing, vocalizing, chewing, and self-injury, it can be a serious problem for both dogs and their owners. Deciding on the best way to manage your pet’s fear depends on the severity of their signs.

Dogs with mild signs may respond to creating a safe haven that would help them relax during the storm. The safe haven should be readily available, located in a room or closet without windows and ideally in the center of the home.  This could be a crate covered with a blanket to give it a den like feel.  In addition, you can add white noise to block out sound and redirect your dog’s anxiety to other behaviors such as obedience exercises, or fun activities such as food puzzle toys or relaxation responses.

Many pet owners like to try a more natural approach. Natural therapies that may work include; Adaptil®, a collar that emits a pheromone similar to the pheromone secreted by mother dogs to their puppies telling them to relax. Since it is a collar it allows dogs to carry that message around with them all the time.  Other natural products include Composure®, Rescue Remedy® or HP Anxiety drops®.

For dogs with intermediate signs additional help may require the use of rapidly acting anxiolytics such as alprazolam or the new product Sileo® (oral dexdomitor), which can be given immediately prior to or at the onset of a storm. Finally, for dogs that have severe anxiety, those that are destructive to themselves or their home, long term anxiolytics such as Clomicalm‡® paired with the rapidly acting anxiolytic alprazolam may keep them safe. 

Ideally for the long term it is best to treat and desensitize dogs to thunderstorms.  This may not completely resolve the problem but may reduce the severity.  Playing recorded thunderstorm sounds and associating them with pleasant outcomes can help. Programs such as Sounds Scary® incorporate counter conditioning exercise to gradually expose pets to scary sounds in a non-threatening manner.

Each owner will need different strategies based on their dog’s responses.  Rehearsing a safe haven routine or redirecting exercises while playing recordings of storm sounds can help prepare your dog for actual storms. A severe thunderstorm is no time to tell your dog to "buck up and get strong." Fears like this are irrational and your dog won't get it when you punish them for “freaking out” and it may likely make their anxiety worse.

Veterinarians call it storm phobia. Pet owners call it their worst nightmare. Either way, we all want the same thing: A calmer dog that doesn’t have to during our monsoon season.


 

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