Clinic Stories

Thunder

Many dogs are afraid of thunderstorms, in some cases extremely so. To shake, cower or hide is mild. Quite a few have true panic attacks, clawing through walls and jumping through windows. One local dog would break through glass and run until the storm was finished, traveling five miles or more and shredding his feet on the sidewalk.

It is uncertain why dogs are so intimidated by thunderstorms. The dogs are not necessarily afraid of other loud noises or timid in other situations. Theories include the type of sound, the sensation of rumbling, and changes in barometric pressure. My own dog was calm until we were outside and lightning struck close by with a powerful crash. She ran around confused for a half a minute and finally curled up in a corner of the garage. She was fearful of storms for the rest of the Summer but by the next year was unfazed. Cats, whether indoors or outdoors, are rarely affected by thunder.

What can you do for a dog that is afraid of thunderstorms?

  1. Most will seek a place where they feel safe, usually a small room or closet that is quiet. If they show a preference for a particular place, make sure they have ready access to that area. Otherwise, a crate that is away from exterior walls can be provided.

  2. Thundershirts – Tight fitting vests sold at pet stores provide relief in the majority of dogs.

  3. Medication – Acepromazine is a sedative that calms dogs. It works well but must be given at least a half hour before the storm to work best.

  4. Pheromones – Adaptil collars or room diffusers release calming hormones reducing some anxiety.

  5. Behavioral Therapy – Adapting a dog to increasingly louder thunder sounds over a period of time may help. A recording of thunder on a computer can be played, gradually raising the volume. This should be done for several minutes daily over a period of a few weeks, then reinforced at the loudest level one a week after that.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us.

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