YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Thunderstorm phobia in animals is real and not uncommon.
The phobia can cause pets to hide for hours, chew things up or even become aggressive during a storm.
A local veterinarian said that it is important to recognize there is a problem early.
The behaviors tend to get worse as storm season goes on and the storms become more frequent. The phobia can also get worse as the animals get older.
According to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, some dogs react to the noise of thunder and others react to the lightning. Some believe that the dogs can sense the change in the barometric pressure from the storm.
But there are ways to help.
“The number one thing that I see people do wrong in a situation with a dog with a storm phobia is that they try to comfort them. And that is not the right thing to do because what you are doing is reinforcing that behavior, and you don’t want that behavior to continue. So we want to not punish them for that behavior, but what you want to do is provide a safe place for them to go, and that’s typically not in your lap and not in your arms,” said Dr. Nicole Pearsall of Penn-Ohio Veterinary Services.
Dr. Pearsall said the ideal safe space looks different for each animal. If they have a place that they naturally tend to go when they are scared, try to make that more comfortable for them.
The best safe place is as soundproof as possible.
If your pet does not have an established safe spot, Dr. Pearsall said rooms without windows are best so the animals cannot see the lightning.
Medication is an option for severe cases, but you do not want to use drugs if it can be avoided.
Natural remedies are also offered by vets. Dr. Pearsall recommends an Adaptil diffuser. It looks like a Glade plugin that emits a natural chemical that helps soothe dogs.
Dr. Pearsall also recommends trying a Thundershirt for your furry friend.
“You put it on beforehand and what it does is it actually hits acupuncture points that help to calm them. Also it gives them that feeling that they are being held so they are comforted in that way,” Dr. Pearsall said.
Online, Thundershirts for cats and dogs range from $30 to $40.
Dr. Pearsall also recommended a Calming Cap. It is a cap that goes over the eyes to filter the dog’s vision to reduce the visual stimulation they experience in the stressful situations.