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How to Calm Your Pet During a Thunderstorm

Avian, Behavior, By Species, By Topic, Cats, Dogs, Exotic

Some pets hate the crashing thunder and flashes of lightning that come with spring and summer storms, and have been known to tremble, hide, whine, and whimper.  Pets with severe anxiety can even become frantic or destructive, and some might even become disoriented due to fear. How can you help calm Fido’s or Fluffy’s fears? The good news is that there are several things you can try to help your pet cope with the scary storm seasons.

Make a Hiding Space for Your Pet

Your pet may just want to hide and wait until a storm is over, which is actually an instinctive behavior. You can help by creating a place where pets can hide and feel safe and cozy. Any appropriate size box or crate lined with bedding and toys works well. If possible, place the hiding space in an enclosed room where your pet won’t see the lightning flashes and the sounds of thunder will be muffled.  Playing soothing music will also help drown out the thunder.

ThunderShirt

Does your pet crave physical affection when it’s frightened? If so, and you aren’t able to spend the duration of a storm cuddling your pet, try a ThunderShirt. Available for both dogs and cats, Thundershirts are garments that wrap around your pet’s chest and apply gentle pressure, which is similar to swaddling an infant. The calming effect is pretty dramatic; 80% of pet owners, who use ThunderShirts for their pets, report significant improvement during storms when their pet is wearing it. Some believe that the pressure provided by the ThunderShirt helps your pet’s nervous system by releasing endorphin-like hormones (the “feel-good” hormones), just like when they get a hug from you!

Desensitize Your Pet

Try getting an audio track of thunderstorm sounds, such as from a CD, MP3, or audio stream from the internet. Play the thunderstorm sounds at a low volume during positive activities with your pet, like playing, cuddling, or giving treats. Over the course of a few weeks, increase the volume of the storm sounds while interacting positively with your pet, until you reach the sound level of an actual storm. Desensitizing can help your pet associate thunderstorms with positive things and reduce their fear when a real storm hits. Remember that desensitization only works for the noise of a storm. If your pet’s anxiety is also caused by the flashing light, change in barometric pressure, or change in the ionization in the atmosphere, you may need to try another method for calming its fears. The desensitization method also helps when preparing your pet for 4th of July fireworks or other noisy holidays.

Medication

If you have tried several calming methods, but your pet is still severely anxious during storms, talk to your veterinarian about medication options. A variety of anxiety medications and sedatives are available. CEDARCREST veterinarians can recommend the best medicine based on your pet’s circumstances and medical history.

No matter which options you try, addressing your pet’s anxiety about storms is important. If simply ignored, the problem can get progressively worse and can often result in your pet destroying your property, injuring themselves, or even injuring you or your family. If you have any questions, please call CEDARCREST Animal Clinic at 540-943-7577.

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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