Thunderstorms and your Dog

Does your otherwise calm, controlled canine become frantic and overwhelmed with fear at the onset of a thunderstorm? Two of mine do. One of my dogs is so laid back I believe nothing will ever faze her; however, my middle and most ferocious dog will turn into a quaking mess, and the mere hint of a rumble of thunder makes my eldest one suffer a panic attack making her seek refuge behind the sofa.

Does any of the above sound familiar? Never mind, we at the DSPCA have some helpful advice.

First of all, any dog can develop the fear factor when it comes to loud noises but it’s more prevalent in older dogs as they tend to become distressed with each successive season. That’s why we advise working to allay their fears as soon as you notice nervous behavior. If, however, an otherwise healthy adult dog suddenly becomes fearful of storms, take him to the vet. He may be ill and may be more sensitive to sounds and no amount of behavioral therapy will help if your animal’s fear is medically based.

For animals with a mild thunderstorm phobia, the following information should prove useful.

  • Allow your dog inside the house. Storms are less scary when you’re indoors. This also prevents him from trying to escape out of the garden.
  • Having human company will help to calm your dog. Offer him comfort, but never cuddle your animal as it only reinforces to him that the storm is something to be afraid of. 
  • Remain calm. Remember, it’s important to be confident. If you’re fearful during a storm your animal will pick up on this.
  • Turn on some calming music – I always tune my radio into Lyric FM because classical music calms my dogs. 
  • Closing curtains also helps as it prevents the dog from seeing flashes of lightening.
  • If your dog has a favorite toy, let him have it during this time.
  • Scatter some treats around the room for him to find – this will distract him from the outside noise.
  • Simple remedies like Rescue Remedy is useful but in order to be effective, treatment should begin before the onset of the storm – as in, when Met Eireann announces a thunderstorm is imminent.
  • Remember: Dogs are more sensitive to the likes of barometric pressure changes and to static electricity so capes and body wraps will help reduce the sensation of the static.

However, if your dog’s quality of life is impaired by the onset of thunderstorms – and thankfully, we don’t get too many of them in Ireland – consider speaking to your vet. Medication can enhance the effectiveness of other efforts to help your dog cope with his fear.

The same tips apply to your cats as well.