Storm Phobias in Dogs
Late Summer can be stressful for dogs who are afraid or anxious during thunderstorms. It’s a common problem, and the reason for it isn’t really well known. It may be the loud noise of the thunder, changes in barometric pressure, discomfort in the ears or simply an inherited trait for it.
Storm phobias in dogs are demonstrated by a wide range of behaviours: they might pace, pant or quietly whine; or they could seek attention; alternatively they could try and hide or escape. The behaviour often gets worse with time, eventually becoming full-blown panic attacks that are very dangerous for your dog.
There are some things you can do to help at home. Bring your dog inside, and stay quiet and calm. You may be able to block out the noise of thunder and the flash of lightning by putting your dog in the laundry, with curtains drawn and the lights on, and running a load of washing. Other dogs seem more comfortable hiding in a safe crate in a quiet part of the house. ‘Calming’ pheromones can be helpful (Adaptil is available as a collar or plug-in diffuser). Finally, some dogs benefit from a type of wrap, called a ‘Thundershirt’ to reduce anxiety, stress, and fear.
Vets are very familiar with this problem and can help. There are several medications that can dramatically ease the stress of thunderstorms for affected dogs. Some are just given at the first sign of the storm; other dogs benefit from being on daily treatment for longer periods. If your dog is a regular escapee during storms, you should consider seeking advice to avoid them being injured or impounded due to their storm phobia.
Meeting with a vet with an interest or specialism in behaviour to talk about desensitization or conditioning programs is another option, and a combination of approaches usually gives the best control of the phobia.