As we’re finally getting some spring time weather, with that comes spring time thunderstorms. The bright lightning (especially at night), gusty winds, and sharp cracks of thunder….all can send your cat running for cover and make your dog tremble.
It’s not uncommon for animals to be afraid of storms. What we don’t like to see is severe storm anxiety (constant pacing, trying to escape, often through a door or window, self-injury). Here are a few ways you can help your pet ride out the storms.
1) Don’t pay special attention to your nervous pet. The more you attempt to reassure or coddle your pet, the more you are telling them that it’s okay to be afraid. You are unknowingly reinforcing the unwanted behavior.
2) Consider using Adaptil (dogs) or Feliway (cats) for your anxious pet. These are calming pheromones that are similar to those released by the mom to the young. Both Adaptil & Feliway come in a spray (to spray on bedding, in crates or carriers, or on collars or bandannas), and as a plug-in wall diffuser. The diffuser lasts about 30 days. The spray only lasts a few hours.
Adaptil also comes in the form of a collar that once opened, lasts 30 days. The benefit of the collar is that it goes wherever the dog goes.
3) When a storm is approaching, remain calm. If you are one who goes around closing windows and unplugging appliances, your pet will pick up on that routine and know the storm will follow. Consider playing some calming music, or sitting down to watch some tv. If your pet is afraid of lightning, closing the curtains and turning on the lights may help.
4) Have an indoor play session or give your pet a special treat filled toy to focus on during the storm. Make it something highly valuable (treat or toy) to help keep their attention focused on it rather than the storm.
5) For the high anxiety pet, especially the one who attempts to harm himself, talk with your veterinarian about medication. Your pet may need something as simple as a light tranquilizer to take the edge off, or something stronger such as an anti-anxiety medication. Discuss your pet’s symptoms and behaviors with your vet to select the best option for you and your pet.
Anything you do to help your pet during a storm, you should begin as early as possible before the storm arrives. Pets are highly sensitive, and often will tell you a storm is coming before you realize it yourself. Watch weather reports carefully to know when storms are likely. The above suggestions may not work if you start them too late (ie as the storm is approaching). By then, your pet already senses the impending storm and is already anxious.