Your dog is terrified of thunderstorms. You’ve seen this before — the thunder starts, and your pooch starts to tremble. Depending on the severity of the phobia your dog might only start to tremble, but there are other behaviours you might notice, such as — panting, pacing, hiding, or clinging to you like glue. Seeing your dog like this can be heartbreaking. But what can you do to help? First of all, it’s important to realize that the fear they are feeling is real and secondly that the fear usually doesn’t go away by itself, if at all.
It is important to talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s thunderstorm phobia to make sure we can help alleviate your dog’s stress and fears in the best way suited for your dog. Pet MD states that ‘Thunderstorm phobia is a disorder in which there is persistent and exaggerated fear of storms or the stimuli associated with storms. To treat this condition, your veterinarian should have some grasp of pathophysiology, as this phobia involves physiologic, emotional, and behavioural components.’
Many dog owners wonder what they can do at home to help alleviate fear. It’s suspected that thunderstorm phobia is caused by a combination of wind, thunder, static electricity, lightning, and barometric pressure. Although we cannot understand which of these conditions may be causing the phobia or fear, there are certain things we can do as owners to help our dogs through this rough time. Things like rewarding calm behaviour, providing your dog with a safe place to be, allowing your dog to wear a thunder shirt during the storm, desensitization to the sounds of the storm, or using dog appeasing pheromones like DAP, may all help decrease or eliminate the fears they feel towards thunderstorms.
For more information on thunderstorm phobia, please talk with your veterinarian!
Written by: Melissa Young, RVT/Practice Manager