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Thunderstorm phobia in your dog and ways to relieve it

Many dogs show signs of fear and anxiety during a thunderstorm. Some dogs with storm phobia are also frightened of other loud noises, such as fireworks or gunshots, but other dogs are only afraid of thunderstorms.

Storm anxiety can result in your dog trembling, pacing, hiding, barking or even trying to escape the backyard.

By some estimates, 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety. Animal shelters in the U.S. report that their busiest day for taking in runaway pet dogs is July 5th, which coincides with annual July 4th Independence Day fireworks.

It is suspected by veterinarians that dogs are triggered by a combination of wind, thunder, lightning, static electricity, the smell of approaching rain, barometric pressure changes and the low-frequency rumbles that precede a major storm. According to one theory, dogs experience shocks from the static electricity buildup before a storm.

dog thunderstorm phobia golden retriever
 
There is no simple fix that works for all dogs, but there are a number of actions you can take to help relieve your pet's anxiety and fear:

1. Have a safe place which your dog can always retreat to during the storm.
- Examples: a crate with a blanket, an interior room, a bathroom, the basement.
- Adding some light background noise like relaxing music can also help.
- Or let your dog decide - if they make a beeline for the basement for example, open the door and let them stay there.
- Its important to ensure your dog can move around freely and is not confined to somewhere they don't want to be during the storm.
 
2. Try a snug fitting coat or blanket
- An example is the "Thundershirt", a pressure garment for dogs that is said to have a calming effect (similar to swaddling a baby).
- Another product that claims to protect dogs from shocks of static electricity is the "Storm Defender" - a metal fabric lined cape.
- If you don't have one of these products to hand, try wrapping your pet in their favorite blanket.

3. Counter conditioning
- For mild cases of phobia simple counter conditioning can help to ease your dog's anxiety.
- It can also prevent puppies who haven't had much exposure to thunderstorms from developing the phobia later in their life.
- The key with this method is to pair something your dog loves with the earliest signs of the storm, and continue providing it while the storm lasts.
- Try their favorite treat or a fun game like tug-o-war.
- Your goal is to condition your dog to associate a storm with something he loves, so that his emotional response to the loud noise is 'Wooo Hooo!' rather than 'Nooooooooo!'.
 
4. Ask your vet for advice
- If the above three ideas don't help, your vet will be able to provide more options.
- Vets have specialist anti-anxiety medication for dogs that can be of huge benefit for severe cases of thunderstorm phobia.
- In these cases often you'll be instructed to give your dog the medication some time before a thunderstorm is due to hit your location.
- There are also over the counter supplements available (based on pheromones or melatonin) which can help to ease anxiety in your dog.

 

Thankyou for reading,

Chow Slow
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