Easing Your Pets' Anxiety During a Storm
Storm Anxiety with Pets
It's no secret that dogs can have anxiety when it comes to loud noises. Whether it's fireworks, storms, or just a truck backing up outside, we know that your furry friend may need extra attention to ease their nerves.
Storms can cause anxiety and stress in anyone, and that stress is only intensified when you have to worry about your pet's stress on top of your own!
Clinical Signs of Stress May Vary
While clinical signs vary, the most common reported signs of pet anxiety include panting, pacing, hiding, drooling and following people through the home. Some animals, perhaps more severely affected, may be destructive to items in their environment.
Although there have been several studies on dogs in storms, far less information is available on cats.
In one study on firework anxiety, dogs exhibited more overt signs like pacing and panting, while cats hid and cowered. This difference is likely to occur during storms as well. While it is difficult to miss a 90-pound Labrador jumping on your bed during a storm at 2 a.m., it is easy to miss a hiding cat. This does not mean cats are any less afraid than their canine counterparts. Instead, owners have to be more vigilant for subtle signs of anxiety because cats are equally in need of treatment.
What about scolding or punishing my dog?
Do not punish your dog when he is scared, it only confirms to him that there is something to fear and will make him worse. In addition, if you are upset or anxious about your pet's behavior, this will also make your dog more anxious.
Can I do anything to reduce the impact of the noise and flashes from fireworks or storms?
Treatment should focus first on reducing anxiety and providing an appropriate environment during storms. Once that is accomplished, the behavior can be modified through training. Behavior modification helps change the way the pet feels when it experiences the storms. However, without reducing anxiety, most pets have a difficult time learning how to be calm during storms. There are several different avenues to pursue for decreasing anxiety, including behavior training, creating safe spaces, pheromones, pressure wraps and supplements.
Always try to ensure that your dog has access to a well-curtained or blacked-out room when a storm begins. Blacking out the room removes the additional problems of flashing lights, flares, etc.
Provide plenty of familiar toys and games that might help to distract the pet.
Try to arrange company for your dog rather than leaving him alone in the room.
Close all the windows and doors so the sound is muffled as much as possible. Try taking your pet to a room or area of the house where the stimuli will be at their mildest and the dog can be most easily distracted. Sometimes placing nested cardboard boxes or a blanket over the cage can greatly mute the sound. Be certain, however, that there is enough air circulation so that the pet does not overheat.
Provide background noise from the radio or television. The volume does not have to be loud as long as the music has a strong beat that acts as a distraction and prevents him from concentrating on the noises outside. Other background noises such as a fan running or even "white" noise devices can help to block outdoor noises.