Thunderstorm Anxiety in Pets

Three Minutes
Apr 25, 2022

Pets can sense a storm coming long before their human caretakers. For those of us who have pets with storm phobia, it can be nerve wracking to watch a usually calm companion suffer when a storm rolls in. Symptoms can be mild to extreme.

Common Storm Phobia Symptoms

Common storm phobia symptms can include:

  • Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Whining/Barking
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Hiding
  • Shivering/Shaking/Trembling
  • Chewing on carpet/bedding

There are different theories on exactly what is triggering these reactions. It could be from changes in barometric pressure, the loud boom of thunder, the disorienting flashes of lightning or the build-up of static electricity delivering painful shocks to our pets.

Storm phobia is something that can get worse over time if nothing is done.  

So, What Should you Do?

Give your Pet a Safe Place to go During the Storm

This could be a certain room or crate, but basements are preferable. Your pet may already have a preferred spot they go when a storm is approaching. Work with them and ensure the space is available to them. Do this by making sure the door is open and access is not restricted on the days a storm is expected. Provide your pet with food and water in their safe place. Also leave a couple of toys.

Block Windows with Heavy Curtains or Cardboard

You could also leave the lights on as this might make the lightning flashes less obvious and stressing to your pet.

Work on Behavior Modification with your Pet

Begin by rewarding calm behavior in the absence of a storm. This will help reinforce acceptable behavior. You can also teach your pet the “settle” command. This command goes by several different names such as “calm” and “easy” — whatever you decide to call it, you will be helping an anxious pet reach a more calm state on command.

You’ll want to begin teaching this command when it’s not storming. It’s not practical to expect your pet to “settle” during a storm if you haven’t worked on the command in the absence of a storm. This will take time and patience, but the goal is to gradually build up to help your pet’s behavior during a storm. The VCA Hospital published a great guide on training the “settle” command.

Desensitize your Pet

Play audio or use an app that replicates the noise of a thunderstorm at a low volume and gradually increase the volume over a period of several months. This may not completely help your pet acclimate as you are only recreating the noise of the storm and not the other environmental changes that occur.

Swaddle your Pet

There are many products on the market that simulate swaddling for your pet. These garments have a similar calming effect to that of swaddling a newborn in a blanket. 

Discuss Prescription Options with your Veterinarian

Lastly, there may be prescription anti-anxiety medications that can help ease your pet’s stress when a storm rolls in. Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of each and can help you make the best choice for your anxious companion.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.