For some pets, storms are frightening for them – it can be from the noise, the lightning, the changes in air pressure, or even changes in the ozone levels in the atmosphere! Some pets express their anxiety by panting and hiding while others can try to jump fences or claw through doors in an attempt to escape from the situation.
Here are some tips to help your pet cope:
During the storm – Set the “Safe Zone”
Designate an area in the house where your pet can stay in during storms e.g. laundry/bathroom and:
1) Turn on the lights to reduce the dramatic light changes,
2) Close all the windows and blinds,
3) Provide a cubby house/kennel/hidey hole bed,
4) Turn on an “Adaptil” or “Feliway” diffuser in the room or if not possible, spray the synthetic pheromones on the bedding,
5) Play some music to overshadow the noises from outside,
6) Try a “thundershirt” on your pet.
Desensitisation with recordings
(This may desensitise your pet to the sound of thunder but they may still be fearful of the other aspects of a storm.)
1. Set up the safe zone for your pet
2. Play recordings of real storm events at the lowest volume possible at variable times during the day where your pet is relaxed
3. Reward your pet (with treats or verbal/tactile praise) every time they do not react to the noises.
4. Repeat this with the volume increased gradually and very slowly. Every time your pet starts to show signs of fear, STOP and repeat at a later time with the previous volume setting that did not cause them to react. Take a little longer with this volume setting before increasing it.
Medications and veterinary intervention
For pets with mild anxiety, the above techniques may be helpful. For pets with moderate to severe storm phobia, veterinary intervention will be required initially. Animals who have a prolonged fear of storms that has been left untreated will not respond to any behavioural modification techniques because their brain is too exhausted with fear to learn anything new. Your veterinarian may then prescribed anti-anxiety medications to help your pet feel calmer and be better able to learn to manage their fears.