Is Your Pet Scared Of Storms? You Can’t Ignore His Stressed Behaviour
Because dogs are more expressive than cats and much more likely to seek help from their owners, the symptoms are usually glaringly obvious. Typical symptoms of fear-related stress include: drooling, dilated pupils, panting, a rapid heartbeat, destructive behaviour, potty accidents, trembling and pacing.
A cat, just to be different, may simply run under the bed or go to a safe place in your home and hide until the storm has passed.
Pets have a genuine fear of storms and it should be taken seriously. In a study of 200 storm-phobic dogs, it was shown that plasma cortisol readings increased by more than 200% when exposed to an audio recording of a storm. Although it’s impossible to scientifically study emotions of pets while a storm is happening, it’s safe to believe they feel the fear and perhaps are even terrified.
Phobias about storms cause discomfort and anxiety not only to people’s four-legged family members but also to the two-legged humans in the family who want to comfort their pets but feel helpless to do so.
If your pet is scared of storms, don’t think that all is lost. You can do certain things to assist your pet in remaining as calm as possible, even when the storm is having such a major impact outside.
Give Your Pet A Safe Haven To Stay When A Storm Hits.
If a cat is your pet, watch where he goes to hide when a storm hits. If you can, turn that spot into a safe haven. For example, if he heads straight for a corner in your bedroom wardrobe, put a cat bed on top of a plastic storage tub. This will enhance the safety aspect and make it a warm, elevated haven.
If you have a dog, a basement or a room that is soundproof or has heavy curtains to muffle the oud noises. The safe haven should not have windows, or only small ones, so he can’t see the bad weather. Place a solid-sided crate there and always leave the door open. Fill the crate with toys, treats, water and food. Once a storm hits, turn the light on in that room to mask lightning flashes.
You can play calming music at a volume just loud enough to mask the thunderclaps. There are lots of samples of such music available online.
Play with your dog in the safe room even when there’s no storm so he feels comfortable in there when it does hit. The door must be kept open all the time, even if nobody’s home.
Behaviour Modification, Desensitisation and Counterconditioning.
One technique for a dog who’s storm phobic is to carry out an activity where he can earn some type of reward. Get him to do a trick or command he already knows and give him a treat if he does it. This will distract both him and you, on the off-chance that you feel tempted to pat him and accidentally reinforce the phobic behaviour when a storm does happen.
Another way to modify his behaviour is to play a fun activity or game. Give him a recreational bone to chew or a treat release toy.
I love distracting dogs with nose work, as in…using his natural sense of smell to divert his attention.
Remember that if your dog has an intense fear of storms, it may not always be possible to distract or sooth him, regardless of what you try.
You can try to desensitise your dog by using a CD with storm sounds recorded on it. It’s best carried out when it’s unlikely for storms to occur.
Unfortunately, this process doesn’t work as well with storm phobias as it does with a myriad of other anxiety disorders. That’s because you can’t possibly copy all the triggers that create a terrified response in your pet. The more difficult elements include: static electricity, alterations to the barometric pressure and the ever-changing variety of smells as the storm changes.
It’s vital that desensitisation is done in every room in your house. This is because a new way to cope in the kitchen will be forgotten in the lounge room. This means it’s harder to treat storm phobias overall.
Counterconditioning involves continue to consistently match a negative and positive trigger, until a positive link is made for your pet. For example, if a thunderclap happens and your dog gets scared each time, give him a treat when every thunderclap happens. The aim here is to get the dog to marry the thunder with a treat.
Extra Stress Relief Tips For Storm-Phobic Pets.
Using continue, gentle pressure, pat your dog until he’s calm. If he lets you, lean on or against him without feeling the urge to pat him. You’ll know if this works as you’ll feel his muscles slowly relax. If they don’t, stop this immediately.
You can try to massage your pet to make him relax more. EFT is another method you can try. Some of these things are a case of trial and error as pets are all unique.
Buy a species-specific pheromone infuser. The pheromones help to positively lift a pet’s behaviour and state of mind. There are different types for cats and dogs.
Consult a holistic vet about homeopathic remedies. Bach flower remedies and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can both ease an animal’s stress levels.
Alongside behaviour modification, other options are Bach Rescue Remedy, Hyland’s Calms Forte, homeopathic aconitum and Calm Shen. Some remedies suit dogs over cats or vice versa.
Highly recommended herbs and calming nutraceuticals include: chamomile, 5-HTP, ashwagandha, rhodiola, i-theanine, GABA and holy basil. Talk to a holistic vet about the ideal choices for your pet.
A few drops of essential lavender oil can be placed on your dog’s bedding and/or collar to decrease a stressful occurrence. The oil can also be diffused around the home for an even more powerful effect for pets and their human owners.
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