How to keep your dog or cat calm in a thunderstorm

While many humans enjoy a good thunderstorm; dark skies, high winds, heavy rain and thunder claps can strike terror into the heart of our pets. Here’s some tips for alleviating phobic pets’ distress in stormy conditions.

Build a fortress

Cats that are susceptible to storms (and other stress-inducing situations) are likely to batten down the hatches and make a dash for their ‘safe place’ so the first step in helping them through a storm front is to familiarise yourself with this bolt-hole. Once you’ve identified their safe haven – be it under a bed, in a wardrobe, or behind a sofa  deck it out with comfy, familiar bedding that looks and feels cosy and protective. Warmth, elevation and security are the key elements to ensure your moggy makes it through stormy weather with minimal distress.

Storm-phobic dogs tend to let their emotions hang out, growling and barking, trembling, pacing, and displaying a range of other symptoms associated readily associated with fear and panic.

But, while the canine stress response can differ markedly from that of cats, the first step in alleviating their distress is very similar: identify a zone in your home where they will be best-insulated from the sights and sounds of the storm. A room with small (or no) windows, double glazing and heavy curtains is an ideal spot or, better still, a basement. Furnish the space with a dog bed or crate that has nice high sides to help your pet feel sheltered from the storm, and fill it with familiar bedding so your dog feels cosy, comfortable and at home.

Invest in a dog anxiety shirt or thunder jacket

An anxiety shirt reproduces the sensation of being cuddled or held tightly which dogs can find very reassuring and help keep them quiet and calm during storms. A few drops of Rescue Remedy, or even a pharmaceutical sedative can be an effective supplement to this type of device.

The herbal – and pharmaceutical – approach

Calming herbs like chamomile, passion flower, valerian and skullcap can be effective in modifying your dog’s mood, but you need to give these supplements time to kick-in so, unless you have plenty of warning that a storm is approaching, they’re not going to have the desired effect.

Desensitising your pet

Systematic desensitisation – playing your dog a recording of a storm at low volume and gradually increasing the volume of the recording over a period of days and weeks – can also help. Desensitisation familiarises your dog with storm noises to the point that they are so blase about thunder claps and flashes of lightning that they stay calm and collected when a real storm hits.

There’s nothing harder for a pet owner than seeing their cat or dog in distress and feeling helpless to ease their pet’s fears, but the tips above should help you to help your furry friends weather the storm.

We endeavour to deliver the best information possible on natural health and diets for dogs and cats. Our articles involve contributions from senior veterinarians and are researched thoroughly. They remain the opinion of Vets All Natural however and we would always recommend seeking professional advice specific to your pet from a veterinarian. © Copyright 2015 Vets All Natural. All Rights Reserved

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