April showers bring May flowers, but they can also bring thunder and lightning. Some dogs are overly sensitive to nature’s sound and light show, and in these dogs, thunderstorm season can cause significant anxiety.
Some dogs become accustomed to storms while others become more frightened with each storm. Signs of anxiety or storm phobia can show up prior to or during a storm and include panting, pacing, trembling and hiding. Some phobias are so severe that affected dogs can become destructive.
Managing thunder phobia depends on the severity of the anxiety. If your dog tries to hide during thunderstorms, be sure to provide a safe place for her and make sure it is accessible at all times in case you are not home for the storm. Some dogs’ anxiety is elevated if they are home alone during the storm. You can try to mask the thunder with white noise or music and distract your dog from the storm with fun activities.
Some thunderstorm phobia is severe enough to require medication. Some medications, such as Valium, are rapidly effective and can be given just prior to or during a storm. Other dogs benefit from long-term therapy with anxiolytics like Prozac. Mild to intermediate cases may benefit from pheromone therapy and nutraceuticals like melatonin.
Yet another approach relies on habituation to storms. Playing a CD of thunder sounds and associating the sounds with pleasant outcomes can allow your dog to cope with storms and can prevent phobias from progressing.
If you think your canine is thunder phobic, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about your options for treatment. Getting anxieties under control before they become severe is ideal. Also remember that the dogs that are thunder phobic are usually noise phobic in general, so other loud noises, like gunshots and fireworks, can also set off anxieties.