Can pets predict the weather? Birds have been known to flee before a hurricane or flood and some pets seem to display obvious signs of anxiety with the approach of a storm. Many dog lovers report that their hounds become extremely nervous during the hours leading up to a storm and reach full panic mode by the time the storm actually arrives.
Why do Thunderstorms Bother Dogs?
There are many theories that might explain why some dogs are bothered by thunderstorms. For some, it may simply be the noise – rain pounding down on the roof and loud claps of thunder shaking the house. For other dogs, it could simply be the smell of the approaching storm in the air or the change in barometric pressure. Some dogs are simply nervous by nature; the combination of noises that comes with a thunderstorm can be overwhelming.
How to Deal with Thunderstorm Anxiety
Some pet parents believe that if they just let their dog work it out on his own that he will eventually learn that the thunderstorm outside doesn’t pose a threat to him when he is inside. Unfortunately, it can take a dog quite a long time to get over his anxiety on his own; in many cases, they never do. Rather than leaving Fido to fend for himself, employ some of these tactics to help reduce his thunderstorm anxiety:
- Make an effort to calm your pet down when he starts to become anxious – pet him gently and speak to him in a calm and soothing voice.
- Take your dog to a room where he cannot hear or see the thunderstorm – keep him away from the windows or close the blinds so that he can’t see the rain and lightning.
- Use music or the television to drown out the sound of the thunderstorm if it bothers your dog – you can even find peaceful CDs specifically designed to calm down nervous dogs.
- Try distracting your dog from the storm by playing a game or giving him a new toy – interactive toys that dispense food are a great option for distraction.
- Place your dog in an anxiety wrap like the ThunderShirt – a vest that wraps around the dog’s body, using gentle pressure to calm his nerves.
- Contact your veterinarian if Fido’s anxiety becomes severe – he may be able to prescribe medication that can calm him down and reduce his anxiety.
The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling nervous is to let him know that he is not alone. Pull your pup up onto the couch with you or let him snuggle with you in bed until the thunderstorm is over. Do your best to maintain an attitude of calmness yourself because your dog is likely to feed off your emotions – if you are feeling anxious or nervous, it will only increase his anxiety. Conversely, if you show your dog that you aren’t frightened, then it might help him see that there is nothing to be nervous about.
If none of the tips above work to reduce your dog’s thunderstorm anxiety, his nervousness could be a sign of a more serious problem like separation anxiety. You may want to talk to your veterinarian or consult an animal behaviorist for treatment. Your vet will also be able to tell you if your dog is suffering from an underlying medical condition that could be contributing to his anxiety.