Dogs & Thunderstorm Anxiety

A good old-fashioned thunderstorm for humans can be a time when we curl up with a good book or take that long sought after nap. Nevertheless, for your dog this can be very frightening. At one point or another most dogs suffer from dog anxiety attacks due to loud noise. For some small breeds, this phobia can last all their lives while in other breeds the problem may not occur till old age.

The change in seasons brings along thunderstorms, noise from fireworks and even the sound of siren can trigger the attack. There is no easy solution to dog anxiety; we will cover four treatments providing some pros and cons for each.

For any treatment to be effective, the first step is to recognize what and when your dog suffers from anxiety. Getting out in front of the attack will help lessen the issue. Paying close attention to your local weather, when is your area going to have a firework display, or any loud noises you have heard which brings on your dogs anxiety attack.

Behavior Modification – As pet owners we are challenged enough to spend time with our canine companions. Spending extra time for behavior modification for dog anxiety will not be simple even if you have been successful with teaching commands like sit, stay, and fetch. Noise anxiety has no tangible affects for your dog. Taking your dog to a firework display or standing under the covered porch during a thunderstorm to desensitize your pooch will only exacerbate the issue. Some vets and experts will suggest playing with their favorite dog toy or some other form of distraction and reward system to move their attention away from the storm or dog anxiety trigger and back pleasing their master.

Treats – Another form of distraction; the idea here is to give your dog his/her favorite treat. The one they will do almost anything to get. Try reinforcing some commands or adding to what your dog already knows.
Pressure Wraps – Are form-fitting capes or vests that wrap around your dog’s body. Think of the effect you feel when you wrap yourself in a tight throw when you’re feeling under the weather. The idea is the same here; however, experts will say you need to get your dog acclimated to the wrap prior to the storm. While this may work on some dogs, for those pets that suffer severe dog anxiety attacks wraps will have little if any affect at all.

Medication – This is the most expensive method but, one that will work. Meds need to be dispensed from your Veterinarian and closely monitored, as dosages for humans and pets are much different. Try wrapping the pill in peanut butter or a small piece of lunch meat. Medications should be reserved for the severest of cases and you will need to stay on top of the conditions that set off a dog anxiety attack. Meds can be slow acting so giving them about an hour before a triggering event is the best practice.

Left untreated dog anxiety attacks can lead to destructive behavior never before witnessed. There is nothing out-of-bounds when comes to a dog in panic mode, from tearing up furniture to chewing through drywall. Severe cases have lead to seizures, vomiting and biting. Remember not to punish your dog they cannot help it, all they want to do is please you! With some patience and prior planning, a thoughtful and caring pet owner can make dog anxiety and loud noisy situations less stressful.