Do you love a good summer thunder storm? There’s nothing quite like sitting on a covered porch or balcony watching lightning light up the sky, listening to the crack of thunder in the distance and feeling the crackle of electricity in the air.
That is, unless you have a dog or pet with a fear of loud noises. Instead of watching the power of mother nature, you are trying to calm a dog who may be trying to escape, barking excessively, drooling, trembling, chewing, urinating or defecating.
How can you help when your dog is shaking, whining, pacing or showing signs of distress at the fireworks or thunderstorm?
- Help your dog find their happy place, somewhere she naturally goes to relax. If her safe place is her crate, leave the door open so she can get out if necessary.
- Try to distract your dog if they show signs of worry. Pets are more sensitive to changes in barometric pressure then humans, so they may get anxious before the storm starts.
- Fight the fear by desensitizing your dog to the noise. This is a behavior modification program that takes time, multiple sessions and consistency. Not every noise sensitive dog can be successfully desensitized, but there is a fair amount of success with these programs.
The static electricity that develops during a thunderstorm may make some dogs develop a fear of storms. Does your dog hide in the bathtub or wedge themselves behind the toilet when a storm hits? If so, they may be protecting themselves against the static shocks that occur during a thunderstorm. The contact with the porcelain plumbing fixtures may ground them and protect them from shocks.
Some storm phobic dogs may be calmer if they are allowed to ride out the storm in the car. The car may protect them from the sounds of the storm as well as from the static shocks. Other pet parents have found success using no-cling laundry sheets. Rubbing these sheets over the dog can help product them from static shocks. This is an easy, inexpensive solution to try.
Was your dog exposed to sudden, loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms between the ages of eight and 20 weeks? Is so, they may have been fear imprinted. Between eight and 20 weeks your dog learns what is safe in the big, wide world and what is not. Being exposed to traumatic stimuli during this period can have long lasting effects. The same exposure outside this critical period is much less likely to have the same effect.
If you have a puppy between the ages of eight and 20 weeks, it is important to take extra precautions to see that she is not traumatized by unusually loud or sudden noises.
Has your dog suddenly become sensitive to or fearful of noises that were never a problem before? There may be an underlying medical cause. Before you look for a behavioral solution, you may want to eliminate a medical cause such as chronic pain. The current theory is when a dog is suffering from pain, the startle reaction to loud or sudden noises can cause them to tense up and aggravate their pain.
Does your dog’s fear seem out of proportion or extreme? They may be experiencing noise phobia. Noise phobia is extreme, persistent and out of proportion to any real danger associated with the noise. Symptoms of noise phobia are extreme, as the dog who is experiencing them is panicking.
A phobia is different than a fear. Fear is a physiologic, emotional and behavioral response to things that pose a threat of harm. Fear is a normal reaction that enables animals to respond to situations that could become dangerous. Anxiety is a persistent fear of something that is not present or imminent.
How can you help your noise sensitive pet during the next thunderstorm or fireworks show?
There are a variety of products on the market, ranging from a hug jacket to special ear muffs, and it may take some trial and error to find the most effective solution for your pet. Take some time to get your pet used to the new product before the actual noise occurs.
Consult a veterinary behaviorist. This doctor is trained in animal behavior and can determine the root cause of your dog’s fear. They can also prescribe medication if needed.
For those looking for a natural alternative to supplementation, PetAlive has developed Scare-D-Pet. Scare-D-Pet is a homeopathic medicine that soothes anxiety in pets who are afraid of loud noises, including thunder and fireworks.
Scare-D-Pet has the following uses:
- Homeopathic medicine temporarily relieves nervous symptoms in pets
- Crafted of safe, effective natural ingredients
- Helps temporarily calm nerves in high-strung pets
- Temporarily relieves hyperactivity and excitability
- Helps relieve symptoms such as trembling, whining and fearfulness
Scare-D-Pet can be used alone, or in conjunction with other treatments for fear of loud noises.
Here’s wishing you and your pet a safe and happy summer!
BY MARY ELLEN KOSANKE