Many dog owners will have found out that their dog has problems with thunder and rain. Imagine you are a dog and you have much better hearing and vision than humans do. You can feel the changes in barometric pressure that herald a storms arrival, and no one can explain to you what's happening. It's not unexpected that a significant number of dogs will have issues with noise and more specifically, thunder phobia.
If you start to see signs of anxiety in your dog associated with storms or loud noises you need to take action as soon as possible.
What are signs of anxiety in dogs?
There are some obvious signals of anxiety in dogs, commonly known as the Four F’s.
Fidget, Freeze, Fight and Flight
Anxious dogs often move a lot and do lots of fidgety things. They will lick their lips, wag tails, play with toys or even become destructive.
Another response to stress could be Freezing. They will lie on the ground or under things. They will glue themselves to our sides hoping we can make it all better.
Flight describes the need to run away, escaping during thunderstorms is an obvious cue of anxiety issues.
Fight is less common to see during noise phobia but you need to be aware that we can see redirected aggression from scared dogs.
How Can I Help my Dog's Thunder Anxiety?
To start addressing these issues the first step is a visit us with your pet. We will be able to discuss what is going on at home and work out what the best approach is. The level of response can vary from just support for dogs that have mild issues, all the way through to medication and treatment of a severe anxiety problem. The reason we stress starting treatment as soon as you see initial signs is that each bad experience your dog has with a scary situation will make the next one worse. If we don’t treat young dogs showing mild signs then each year these get worse until we are faced with a major problem.
Support during a storm starts off with a large meal (full tummy helps with happiness), put on some loud calm music to drown out the noise of the storm, shut the blinds so your pet can't see the flashes of light and set them up somewhere they can feel safe.
If this is not enough for your pet to sleep calmly through a storm then you need some more help from your vet. We normally start of discussing pheromones that are really helpful, crate training and desensitisation. Dogs with severe anxiety have a medical condition and will need medication as well as behavioural therapy (one won't work without the other).
If you are worried about your pet's response to storms talk to us now so you are not caught off guard during the next storm season.
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