Storm Anxiety and Pets

It is severe weather season here in North Texas, and like humans, our furbabies can have storm phobia. Thunderstorm phobia is very real for cats and dogs, and it’s difficult to cure. Because so many factors make up a storm, it is difficult to narrow down exactly what is stressful for our pets. Fear of loud noises, change in barometric pressure, darkened skies, lightning, pouring rain, and static electricity can all be stress-inducing factors for cats and dogs. We all know Mother Nature has no chance of letting up on stormy weather anytime soon, but with some knowledge and a little preparation, you can help alleviate your pet’s storm phobia.

Symptoms Include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Whimpering, barking, or howling
  • Hiding or cowering
  • Involuntary urinary or bowel movements
  • Destructive behavior or self harm
  • Seeking an escape

How to Help:

  1. Provide a safe “storm shelter”. Just like humans, pets want to stay indoors in cozy quarters during rough weather. Provide your pet with a safe space – cover their crate with a blanket or set up their bed and toys in a secluded corner. Make sure this haven is in a quiet area, away from doors and windows. If their space has windows, be sure to close the blinds so your pet can’t see outside.
  2. Distract your pet. Play calming music to drown out thunder and loud rain. Make stormy weather fun by bringing out your pet’s toys and engage them with playtime.  This can help signal to them that storms are nothing to be afraid of.
  3. Reward calm behavior. Don’t wait for your pet to become anxious or fearful to give them attention. Try not to coddle them when they are fearful as this is actually rewarding unwanted behavior. Instead, treats and praise are best served when your pet is completely calm.
  4. Create your own storm. Playing thunderstorm recordings can help desensitize and acclimate your pet to unpredictable weather. Start off by playing the sounds at a low volume for 10 minute intervals and include treats and playtime. Then gradually increase the volume each session so your pet knows to remain calm during storms.
  5. Try calming treats. Mild cases of storm anxiety can be quieted with over the counter calming treats. Look for treats with Melatonin, L-Tryptophan, or Thiamine.
  6. Try a Thundershirt. Just like babies, swaddling pets can help relieve stress and anxiety. Pressure applied to their arms and chest gives them the feeling of comfort. If you can’t afford a Thundershirt, you can make your own by using a small shirt and putting your pet’s arms through the arm holes. Make sure the shirt is snug, otherwise, it won’t work.
  7. Ask your veterinarian. Whether your pet has a mild or serious case of storm anxiety, your vet will be able to help you decide what is best for your furbaby. If your pet has severe anxiety, they might recommend a lose dose of anti-anxiety medication.