Do the summer storms have your pets on edge? Thunderstorm phobia is a common disorder amongst our furry family members. Our Tampa Bay veterinarian has a few tips on recognizing fear, what not to do, and treatment techniques to help your pet through this loud time of year.
Recognize the fear: When a pet is afraid they may hide in a closet or stick to their owners like glue. Additional signs to watch for are, excessive panting, pacing, excessive vocalization, destructiveness, and fecal incontinence to name a few.
Don’t unintentionally reinforce: Many fears and phobias are learned behaviors and can be broken if owners stop reinforcing the fear with something positive. For example, if your dog receives a treat or special attention every time thunder crashes, they learn to show fear to get this attention.
Avoid punishment: A pet should never be punished for something they cannot control. Punishment only causes more stress and anxiety in an already fearful situation. Keeping calm is the key, if you are calm they will react off your behavior.
Avoiding the storm: Florida storms are like clockwork, when a storm is approaching start something fun with your pet, play laser tag with your cat, or roll the ball in the house with your dog, turn on the radio and have a dance party with the entire family. Loud action movies are also great distracters, this way the pet hears the movie and not the storm.
Offer a safe place: By providing a comfort zone you can help calm your pet. Some pets just need their owner by their side to provide a sense of well-being. Other pets may need a room to themselves with a TV or radio turned up to tune out the scary sounds happening outside. Turn on lights to make lightning strikes less noticeable through window coverings. Another option is to create a den for your pet. A solid-sided crate, for example a ZenCrate. The ZenCrate offers the combination of noise and light reduction, soothing music, and a controlled fan to help create the perfect hiding place. You can purchase these crates by visiting zendogcrate.com.
Desensitization: Use CD’s containing storm sounds, such as, Thunderstorms Sound Desensitization for Dogs by Dean Lake. This can help your pet build their confidence with thunderstorms noises. Start with the lowest volume and gradually increase the decibel. Once they calm at that volume, praise your pet for their good behavior, and increase to the next level. This should be done over time, do not overwhelm in one day.
ThunderShirts: These shirts apply a gentle constant pressure simulating a hug, much like an infant swaddled in a blanket. For many pets these shirts work great, but they are not for everyone. They can be found at local pet store such as, PetSmart, Petco, or online at Amazon.
Talk to your veterinarian: Your pet may require more advanced treatment options which need to be determined by the behavior of your pet may experience during a storm.
We know thunderstorm phobia pets can be frustrating at times and our staff wants to help your pet blow through the season relaxed and unstressed. If you have questions regarding any of the above tips or need suggestions for your pet please contact the hospital at (813) 501-4985.