by Michele Carelse on June 14th, 2011 at 7:00 am
Pets can be just as affected by thunder and lightning storms as humans can be. While pet owners whose animals remain strangely detached throughout such an episode might feel very blessed, those sensitive pets that become frightened, scared or paralyzed with fear, usually turn to their owners for support when they themselves cannot cope or understand the distress.
Fear of thunderstorms (as well as other loud noises such as fireworks and gunshots), is called noise phobia. Learning to recognize the signs of noise phobia in your pet will help your pet feel less traumatized. Some of the first signs of distress to look out for may be whining/barking, panting and/or restlessness. You may find that you pet is locked against your frame or trying to bolt for protection somewhere else (scrabbling at doors or cupboards is common).
It is important to remember that every pet is different and it is about learning what works for him/her. The first thing to do is limit the noise – thus limiting the phobia. Close curtains to limit the flashes of bright light. Turn on the television or radio loudly to mask the claps of thunder. Try to act normally and not to fuss too much. Reassurance is important, however, it is calm reassurance that is key. Pets can feel when we are nervous or frightened and this will only reinforce their own anxieties. This includes giving soothing noises or stroking as a way of reassuring our pet. However, this will only positively reinforce that there is indeed something to be scared about. By ignoring the storm and carrying on with normal activities, your pet will begin to understand that the storm is no big deal.
Massaging or brushing your pet in long and even strokes can also be very calming for them. If your pet has a favorite game or treat try to involve him or her with this during a storm. Practicing this during future storms will eventually help them to view storms in a more positive way.
You may also want to try crating your dog or cat. If you normally crate your dog when you’re home this may be an effective way in keeping him/her calm during the storm. A blanket draped over the crate will also help to muffle the terrifying noise. However, if you don’t normally crate your pet, then this method could make things worse. To practice crating him/her, try doing this when you’re home for nap times.
Prevention of stress and support during a storm
Desensitizing your pet to noises can also prove effective. By slowly exposing your pet to different loud noises, and making sure that something good always follows, can help to reduce your pet’s noise sensitivity. There are storm audio tapes available that are very effective in introducing your pet to the noise. By starting at very low volume, you can work your way louder while teaching your dog to ignore the sound at the same time.
For more severe pet reactions, an animal behaviorist may need to get involved. Natural remedies are also wonderfully effective yet perfectly safe in helping to calm pets during a storm.
PetCalm™ Homeopathic remedy soothes fear and nervousness during stressful situations and everyday disturbances