Thunderbolts and Lightning

Can be very, very frightening for people and pets alike. A fear of thunderstorms, even bordering on or becoming a phobia, is very common in pets, especially in dogs. One study showed that as many as 75 percent of dogs are afraid of thunderstorms, so it’s not an uncommon fear.

Causes of Thunderstorm Phobia

Whether your pet has a fear (feelings of distress) or a phobia (an irrational, uncontrollable fear) about thunderstorms, they rely on you to help them manage it. Thunderstorm anxiety can be caused by something scary they experienced before they came to you, or it can be related to their genetics. Some researchers believe that dogs are much more sensitive to changes in barometric pressure and that changes in the earth’s electrical field cause dogs’ coats to become charged with static electricity, which means they get shocked, causing them to develop a fear of both the shock and the thunderstorm that causes it. 

Signs of Thunderstorm Anxiety and Fear

Your pet’s fear of thunderstorms is palpable, sadly. They become anxious and some even become almost frenetic as a storm approaches and encroaches on their lives. They might:

  • Pant
  • Whine
  • Pace
  • Become agitated
  • Seek attention
  • Urinate or defecate unexpectedly or inappropriately
  • Become destructive

Some dogs have been so frightened they’ve crashed through windows or run away from home. This panic is very real to them. They can’t control or restrain it. They desperately need help in managing their aversion.

How to Help Your Pet

There are various ways to help your pet overcome their fear of thunderstorms. For example:

  • Using a snug wrap
  • Letting them hide in a bathtub, closet, or other enclosed place
  • Putting a blanket over their crate creating a den of sorts
  • Playing classical music, meditation music, or white noise
  • Toys that create an opportunity for your dog to lick or forage
  • Trying to distract them with play or treats
  • Remaining calm yourself
  • Only interacting with your frightened pet calmly and gently

Truly, your pet isn’t trying to be difficult. They’re afraid. It might be helpful for you to take a video of your pet when they begin becoming anxious so you can identify those behaviors early and take steps to help calm them as soon as possible.

If Those Methods Don’t Work

Sometimes the most gentle, understanding methods simply don’t work. Your pet is either too panicked or their behavior is so ingrained that distraction, music, and other calming options aren’t effective. In that case, we can provide prescription medication. We may be able to recommend behavioral techniques which will help, too, so that, eventually, your pet can wean off anti-anxiety medications.

Homey Gnome Veterinary Clinic

Homey Gnome Veterinary Clinic in Oakdale, MN is available to help you help your anxious pet. Whether it’s through additional training, behavioral modification techniques, medication, or a combination, we can ease some of your pet’s anxiety and help them live a happier, more well-adjusted life. We strive to provide compassionate, empathetic, expert care that supports you and your pet. We can be reached by phone at 651-202-3388 or by email at email [email protected]. We look forward to helping your pet live their best, calm life.

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