Hurricane season is upon us - and while hopefully we won’t see much of the big storms this year, we are still reminded about our four legged family members and their lack of understanding when these big storms roll through with the pounding rain, forceful winds and the loud thunder that often comes along with it.
I figured this was a good time to bring up some options, strategies and tools to help our canine companions better cope when the storms come rolling in. Thinking ahead and having a plan in place can often help to alleviate some of the drama associated with these stressful events.
While these storms are often intimidating to us, at least we know what’s coming and the potential threats - imagine not knowing what it’s all about - just changes in barometric pressures, loud booms other noises that seem to intimidate some of our canine family members and cause a fair amount of anxiety. Dogs can start to display levels of anxiety before the storms even begin, which is what makes it even more tricky to catch before they get too wound up.
Helping your dog to weather the storm (see what I did there?) can make everyone's experience more pleasant and put much less strain on the whole family. These thunder phobia cases are all different. Each dog deals with it differently and many dogs who have never had an issue in the past can often times start to as they get a bit older. The best course of action is to find a way to minimize the exposure to the stimuli that creates anxiety. Attempting to keep dogs in an area that may not be as exposed to the sounds, changes in the lighting, etc can often help minimize their anxiety. Of course in many cases this just isn’t possible.
Its very easy to attempt to comfort your pet, to try and settle them down - this can actually make things worse, as an alternative you could play with them or attempt to distract them from the noises and other discomforts to the senses. For dogs with very severe storm anxiety, we can often attempt to desensitize them to the sounds, using different apps on the phone, playing sounds at a low volume, increasing the volume over time. Of course these are just the sound components, not the change in pressure, light or other triggers.
There is a very useful article to cover most of these recommendations on veterinarypartner.com at this following link https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=9150900
Of course we are here to discuss other options with you as well. Many dogs can benefit from medications in conjunction with behavior modifications at home to help deal with these big scary events that they just can’t understand.
These phobias can be frustrating and often difficult to manage, but we are here to help.
Until next time - Dr. Covert