By Helen Burns | Dated June 24, 2021 | 0 Comments
Right at the end of April the gorgeous Murphy came in to see us for his annual vaccination and check up. Little did we or his lovely family know that […]
By Helen Burns | Dated January 9, 2016
After struggling through a hot Sydney Summer’s day, the evening thunderstorm is often a welcome relief for many of us. It’s a chance to open the windows and enjoy the cool Southerly breeze. Unfortunately many of the four legged members of our families find these sound and light shows terrifying, and can suffer considerably.
It isn’t known for sure what exactly creates this terrible phobia, however there are several factors and it is likely that different stimuli work for different dogs. The all pervasive sudden noise, the flashing lights, changes in static electricity and changes in barometric pressure may all be contributing factors.
Some dogs may suffer mild effects and can be seen to pant and try to be as close as possible to their owner, or if their owner is not present, they may be found hiding in a confined space such as underneath a desk. Others can suffer more dramatically and will pace, tremble, salivate, and whine. Because the source of the noise can be confusing, some dogs will go to great lengths to get out if they are in, or get in if they are out! Unfortunately these dogs are extremely distressed, and in their panic they can chew through doors or fences, often causing terrible damage to their teeth and mouth, and of course to the door or fence as well. Thunderstorm phobia can have a massive impact not only on the dog who is affected by it, but on the whole family who may need to adjust their plans when thunderstorms or fireworks are on the radar.
Management of thunderstorm phobia can be complicated and hard work, and will be a little bit different for each situation.
If your dog’s thunderstorm phobia is fairly mild, there are a few things at home that you can easily try. If your dog is restless and agitated, and wants to hide, try to assist by providing a safe haven that they can access both when you are home and when you are out. For some dogs a desk will suffice, or perhaps access to a shed. If you are home, you might be able to reduce their exposure to the lights and sounds of the storm by closing doors, windows and curtains, and attempt to block the sounds by playing music. Some dogs will respond well to being distracted during the storm, with either games, training or relaxation exercises.
For those dogs with more significant fear, there is certainly no magical cure, however medication given an hour or so before the thunderstorm hits can smooth the ride for many dogs and there are new treatments available all the time. In addition to this, some dogs have responded well to the use of a specially designed coat, which places gentle pressure on a dog’s chest and helps them to feel secure. A collar which releases a pheromone (aerosolized hormone) that is usually released by the mother dog to give her newborn pups a sense of security, is another method that can help these panicked dogs. Finally, as with many anxieties, in the long term we aim to teach dogs how to relax in the presence of stressful stimuli, and to enable them to cope with what is frightening them.
If you are concerned that your dog or cat may have thunderstorm phobia, please do not hesitate to make an appointment to come in and see one of our vets, so that we can work out a management plan to make Summer smoother for your whole family.