Storm Phobia | Rochester MN
When a pet (usually a dog) exhibits fearful and anxious behavior during thunderstorms, this is referred to as “storm phobia”. Signs range from mild (panting, pacing, drooling, hiding, whining) to extreme (urine or stool accidents in the house or destruction of property—such as chewing out of a kennel or breaking through a window in an attempt to escape). It is believed that cats may also suffer from storm phobia, but since they usually just hide it often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. Storm phobia is a form of noise phobia. Dogs that are afraid of storms can express fear of fireworks, gunshots, or other loud noises as well.
Non- medical Management
Mild storm phobia can sometimes be managed without the use of medication.
- Cover windows to block lightning flashes.
- Use background noise (such as a radio or TV) to muffle thunder crashes.
- Do not punish your dog for being afraid. Punishment only increases their fear.
- Do not coddle or comfort your dog for showing fear, either. By telling them "it's okay," you inadvertently praise them for acting fearful. Rather than petting your dog, apply constant even pressure with your hands (using the Temple Grandin theory of the calming effect of constant pressure).
- Some dogs tolerate storms better with the use of a Thundershirt (www.thundershirt.com) anxiety-wrap or DAP (dog appeasing pheromone, www.dapdiffuser.com) plug-in product or collar.
- Desensitization and counter-conditioning: Play a thunderstorm recording in the background for 5 minute sessions several times a day. Engage the pet in a fun activity, such as eating or playing fetch, at the same time. Gradually increase the amount of time and volume setting the storm track is played as your pet's tolerance develops. Decrease the volume or turn it off if your dog shows fear.
Many dogs that suffer from storm phobia cannot be effectively consoled with non-medical methods. Oral prescription medications, such as valium or alprazolam, are often necessary. The main side effect of these medications is sedation.
Please ask us any questions you have on storm phobias.