My Dog Is Afraid of Thunder- 7 Remedies to Ease the Anxiety

Here’s a terrific and important article by Dr. Patrick Tate, chief veterinarian at Webster Groves Animal Hospital (Kirkwood Missouri) that contains 7 remedies when your dog is afraid of thunder or loud noises.

This may seem like a casual subject but I will warn you, it’s not to be taken lightly. Thunder phobia is exactly what my dog had…  and in essence she was killed by it. We had her in what we thought was an inescapable fenced in back yard. Without us knowing or hearing anything, faint distant thunder started to freak her out. Somehow, she escaped and got hit by a car. We got a knock on the door from the police asking if that was our little black dog. My wife said I cried like an “old Italian grandmother” in the street over her. Now I don’t want you to feel bad but for sure,  if your dog has a similar fear of thunder and/or loud noises, this article may have information that may save your dog’s life. I’m sorry we didn’t address this issues with “Heiney Girl” (our beautiful little Schipperke):

My Dog Is Afraid of Thunder- 7 Remedies to Ease the Anxiety

Dog Is Afraid of ThunderIt can be confusing to figure out what part of a storm frightens our canine friends the most. In my experience, it is almost impossible to pinpoint the exact triggers.

Storm phobia is considered a progressive behavioral disease — if ignored or treated incorrectly, the behavior can escalate as the dog gets older.

1. Use counter-conditioning techniques. The goal is to condition your dog to associate thunderstorms with something he loves (like fetch, tug-of-war, special treats, etc). It is a good idea to start this as a puppy to prevent future problems. If your dog already has signs of storm phobia, start at whatever stimulus first elicits a sign of fear. The “treat” has to be highly desirable so that the emotional response it causes is more powerful than any fear elicited by the thunder.

2. Desensitize your dog to the sound of thunderstorms. The goal is to get your dog used to the sound of storms and associate those sounds with good things like above. Play a CD of thunderstorm recordings for your dog before the rainy season begins and introduce favorite treats or toys while he listens. Start with low levels of sound, gradually increasing the volume over several weeks or months.

3. Create a “safe space” where your dog can go during storms. Notice where your dog seems to feel most comfortable when he is anxious and make sure he has access. This could be a crate covered in blankets, a closet with a special dog bed, a corner of the basement in a cardboard box, under the bed of a guest room, etc.

4. Put a pressure garment on your dog. This treatment is based on the theory that “swaddling” provides a sense of comfort and safety and distracts the dog from fears and inappropriate behaviors (sometimes called “overshadowing”). There are now many types of wraps, capes and vests on the market designed to decrease a dog’s anxiety and/or promote better behavior.

5. Consider sound therapy. Veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner and psycho-acoustic expert Joshua Leeds have written a book (with companion CD) based on years of research about the effect of sound on dogs. Through a Dog’s Ears provides tips and specially produced music to help counteract thunderstorm anxiety and other behavior problems.

6. There are a variety of holistic therapies that may be helpful with dog anxiety. Some of the most popular are Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.) Therapy with Comfort Zone products and homeopathic flower essences like Rescue Remedy. Clients have also have tried massage, herbal remedies, light therapy, aromatherapy, etc.

7. Studies have shown that the most effective treatment of severe thunderstorm phobia is a combination of counter conditioning and prescription anti-anxiety medications. After 30 years of working with dogs that have thunderstorm issues (and experiencing it with some of my own dogs), I would have to agree with the studies.

As you might imagine, Holistic Remedies News are not big fans of medications per se, but if your dog has a serious fear of loud noises and is not reacting to any of the holistic or natural remedies Dr. Tate recommends to ease the anxiety, it may be well worth it to discuss anti anxiety meds with a veterinarian. Dr Tate highly recommends the following products that you might want to try for starters:

The Cautious Canine-How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears This is a book by dog behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell on how to use counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques with dogs.

Dr Tate recommends the Legacy Canine Behavior & Training publishes the Sounds Good audio CD series for dogs. I was unable to find this available in stock but I’m imaging any CD that has thunderstorms, fireworks, barking dogs,vacuum cleaners and loud sounds will work just fine. The idea again is to desensitize your dog to react to loud or abrupt noises.

I found this next thunder phobia remedy to be the most interesting of all, as it is said to also help seperation anxiety, travel anxiety, crate training, barking, hyperactivity and leash pulling. It’s called the Thundershirt  Dr Tate says “Quite a few of my clients have reported good results with their dogs and pressure garments.”  

And for dogs with static electricity issues, Dr. Tate recommends the metallic–lined Storm Defender Cape

Another recommended resource for treating thunderstorms by way of  alternative, homeopathy, natural methods (although many regular medical doctors are going to say is bull) is an inexpensive book by Claudeen McAuliffe called The Big Bang: How you can help your dog cope with thunderstorms and fireworks
.

Finally, if you would like to see Dr Tate’s entire article, please read more and also, do me and your friends with dogs a favor …. share this article with them- just hit the Facebook “like” button and/or tweet it. It may save their dog’s life.

 

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Comments

  1. This is interesting and useful. I wonder about the pressure garments though…. seems like they would be worth a try.

    ==Jim

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