Fear of thunderstorms is a common phobia in pets. When thunder begins to rumble and lightning strikes (or even beforehand), your pet may dive under the bed, bury their head in your lap, tremble, whine, drool, or pace. In some severe cases, a pet may even engage in destructive chewing or scratching as a way to release their anxiety.
While your pet’s jitters may seem cute or comical at times, what you’re really seeing is a scared and unhappy animal, and there’s nothing funny about that. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your pet overcome their fear of storms. We will provide some tips here, but don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian or contact a certified behaviorist if you need more help. You will find links to specialist websites at the bottom of this page.
1. Desensitize Your Pet To Storm Sounds
One way to teach your pet that storms are nothing to fear is to expose them to the sounds of storms gently and gradually. Use a CD or YouTube clip of recorded storm sounds, and play the sounds very quietly for a few seconds at a time. Reward your pet with a tasty treat while they are listening. Gradually increase the volume and duration of the recordings, always looking out for signs of anxiety, and stopping if you see that your pet is afraid. The goal is to form a positive association with storm sounds, not to exacerbate an already existing fear.
If you wish to try desensitizing your pet to storm sounds, it may be useful to contact a professional for help. In addition, experts caution that sound desensitization alone may not work in calming all of your pet’s storm fears, as many pets respond not only to the sounds of a storm, but also to static electricity, the drop in barometric pressure, and other environmental factors.
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2. Offer Your Pet A Safe Space
One way to help your pet out during a storm is to make sure that they have a quiet and comfortable place to go (if they choose to) when a storm is going down. This may be a crate, a basement room, or a cozy corner of a bedroom away from any windows. The important thing is to allow your pet to decide where they want to go during a storm; confining an anxious pet or forcing them into a certain area of the house can result in heightened fear and panic.
3. Try A Thundershirt
A Thundershirt is a garment designed to calm pets down by providing constant, gentle pressure to your pet’s body — almost like a perpetual hug. Experts believe that the shirt’s pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system, possibly due to the release of a calming hormone like endorphins. According to customer surveys completed by Thundershirt, over 80% of dogs and cats showed significant improvement in symptoms when wearing the shirt.
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If you feel like you need help training your pet to weather the storm, your veterinarian should be able to provide recommendations to the following types of specialists:
Applied Animal Behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs), or Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs): www.certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com
Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs): www.ccpdt.org
Veterinary Behaviorists: www.dacvb.org
Is your pet afraid of storms? How do you help them settle down? Leave a comment below, and consider signing up for PetPlus to save on your pet’s medications, boarding, supplies (like Thundershirts!), and more.