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Thunderstorm Phobias

It is FINALLY springtime!! Most people are so excited when the temps start rising and the days get longer but if you are the owner of a pet who has thunderstorm anxiety, springtime can cause significant work. One of my dogs started with thunderstorm anxiety after we had a tornado hit our home, and the major problem for her was that not everyone was home. After the storm, I arrived home with one of my daughters to find my girl all stressed and worried. She didn’t leave me alone for about a week. I didn’t think much about it until the next storm when she absolutely freaked out. Her anxiety was at an all-time high and she almost destroyed a door to get to me. That was a shock but understandable now. We worked with her every time we were predicted to have a storm, but we still needed some anti-anxiety medications to get her to calm down. After years of work, we have her at a point where she will search for me and once she finds me, if she can be constantly touching me she is fine.

This story illustrates some points about thunderstorm anxiety that everyone needs to be aware of. First, thunderstorm anxiety can begin at any time. Callie was 7 years old when she developed thunderstorm anxiety. In many cases, dogs and cats require some anti-anxiety medications to calm down during the storms. But, in a few cases, conditioning can reduce their anxiety and eliminate the need for medications. In Callie’s case, I was able to reduce her anxiety to a level that was much better for her and manageable for me, but it did take a lot of work and consistency.

The perfect time to have a discussion with your veterinarian about your pet’s thunderstorm anxiety is BEFORE the storms start up. So, if you are seeing some anxiety during thunderstorms be sure to get in touch with your veterinarian.

There are several ways to manage thunderstorm anxiety. The first thing to consider is the severity of the anxiety. If your pet is destructive in her anxiety, or completely shuts down in fear, then medications may be the first step. Many anti-anxiety medications can be given before the storm hits to reduce their anxiety during the storm. That works great for many pets, but it requires owners to be aware of forecasts to ensure that medications are given at the right time to be effective when the storm hits.  In many cases, pets may need anti-anxiety medications for thunderstorm anxiety for the rest of their lives. But, there are things that can be done to reduce fear and anxiety even if they are on medications. These include playing the tv or radio to block some of the noise, turning on the lights to reduce the flash of lightning, giving them a safe secure location to hide in. If your dog is crate trained, then their crate may be their safe place and covering it with a blanket may reduce the sounds and lights from the storm. In some mild cases, that may be enough for them to feel secure.

The good news is your pet does not have to suffer from thunderstorm anxiety and there are several things that we can do to assist. So be sure to talk with us if your pet is showing signs of anxiety so we can help you take the steps to keep him comfortable.

 

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