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 symptms can include:
- Dilated Pupils
- 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.
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.
You could also leave the lights on as this might make the lightning flashes less obvious and stressing to 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.
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.
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.
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.