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Thunderstorms are a natural occurrence that often come with rain, wind, bright flashes of lightning, and loud peals of thunder. While humans know these events typically aren’t dangerous, dogs don’t. All they know is that they’re hearing loud, scary sounds and feeling unusual changes in the atmosphere.
For some dogs, thunderstorms can trigger fear and anxiety. Here’s what pet parents know about how to calm a scared dog in a storm.
Even the calmest, most easy-going dogs can become petrified when storms roll in. For some dogs, it’s the sound of thunder. They may also get anxious when they hear fireworks.
Other canines start exhibiting signs of anxiety before a storm actually begins. Since dogs have far keener senses than their pet parents do, dogs notice the changes in the air, including a shift in the barometric pressure and the scent of static electricity. Their anxiousness and fear continue as the storm arrives and passes.
Anxiety, whether triggered only by the noise or by the storm in general, can have a significant negative impact on a dog. It can lead to a variety of health issues, including digestive upset, a weakened immune system, appetite changes, and an increased risk of developing numerous health issues.
Symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:
Pacing or circling
Whining or whimpering
Hiding or withdrawing (although some dogs become clingy and won’t leave their pet parent’s side)
Thunderstorm anxiety can make dogs feel miserable. Fortunately, there are a few ways pet parents can ease their dog’s fearful behaviors and help them feel more comfortable.
Many dogs look for places to hide when they’re feeling frightened. A pet parent can do their canine one better and create a “safe space” within their home. That safe space could be a crate or an interior room such as a closet or bathroom. Providing a few items like a soft bed, a cozy blanket, and one or two of the dog’s favorite toys can help make the area feel comforting.
No matter what spot pet parents designate as the “safe space,” they should always leave the door open. Closing it could make their dog feel trapped, which could exacerbate anxiety.
Note: Some of the best safe spaces are in windowless interior rooms. The lack of windows limits visual stimuli (such as lightning and wind) from frequent storms. These rooms are also generally quieter. If a pet parent does choose to use a room with windows, closing the blinds and drapes can block sights and dampen sounds to make the space feel safer.
For dogs scared of the sound of thunder, drowning out the loud noise with something familiar or calming may help lessen anxiety during storms. Pet parents can look up music meant to soothe dogs online, turn on the radio to a classical music station, or play something comforting on the television. Another option is to invest in a white noise machine.
Some pet parents find success using desensitization and counter-conditioning to relieve their canines of their thunderstorm anxiety. With this technique, pet parents play thunder sounds at a low volume and give their dog treats to create a positive association. During the next several weeks, the pet parent gradually increases the volume and continues offering treats or toys.
Pet parents should note that this solution doesn’t work for every dog. If other storm factors beyond the sound of thunder trigger a canine’s anxiety, additional measures may be necessary to help ease their fear.
Some dogs prefer to stay around their humans during thunderstorms rather than hide. If a canine is willing to engage, a pet parent may find success in distracting them with some quality playtime. When they’re having fun playing tug of war or fetch, a dog may not notice the storm passing through outside.
It’s natural for pet parents to want to console their dogs when they’re exhibiting signs of anxiety. However, cooing, providing extra attention, or giving treats can actually reinforce a dog’s fearful behavior.
Pet parents should stay near their dogs but avoid trying to console them. Instead, they should try talking to a dog in an upbeat and even playful tone to provide confidence. Being present and calm can also help. Dogs pick up on their pet parents’ body language. They’re more likely to be relaxed if that’s the energy their pet parents are giving off.
Dogs with extreme anxiety during storms may not respond to any of the above solutions and may require an additional remedy — anti-anxiety medication. Pet parents have numerous options, including:
Supplements: Specially-formulated anti-anxiety supplements like chews and capsules contain natural ingredients known to promote a sense of calm in dogs. These ingredients include thiamine, l-theanine, and melatonin.
Sprays: Calming sprays contain dog-appeasing pheromones that can help dogs feel almost instantly more comfortable. These sprays may also have ingredients such as rosemary, clove, and chamomile, which are natural extracts to calm anxiety.
Collars: Similar to sprays, calming collars have dog-appeasing pheromones that can help soothe storm anxiety.
Anti-anxiety medications: In more severe cases, dog storm anxiety may require treatment with prescription medication. In conjunction with other anxiety-reducing strategies, medication may help keep extremely anxious dogs calmer during thunderstorms and other triggering events.
Whether it’s the sound of thunder or everything about a storm in general, dog storm anxiety can wreak havoc on a dog’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Fortunately, with the right remedies, pet parents can lessen fearful behaviors and help their canines feel calmer when thunderstorms occur.
From a safe space and white noise machine to anti-anxiety supplements and prescription medications, pet parents have several options for helping their dogs feel calmer despite a storm going on outside. However, every dog is different. What works for one may not work for another.
So, how will pet parents know how to calm a scared dog in a storm? A pet parent can try different treatment options to see what might work. Alternatively, they can speak to a professional vet for professional advice. With Fuzzy, pet parents have access to experienced and knowledgeable vets 24/7. No matter what time it is, they can connect with a professional vet via Fuzzy’s online live vet chat. Using Fuzzy, they can also access a range of calming stress and anxiety medications and purchase what they need to help their dogs feel calm, happy, and healthy during storms.
For pet parents looking to answer the question, “how to calm your dog in the storm,” Fuzzy is here to help. Visit Fuzzy online to become a member and find some of the best stress and anxiety treatments today.