Q. My dog panics every time there is a thunderstorm. What can I do to help him?
This is a very common question during the summer months. Some dogs will become extremely stressed, even before the storm appears, due to changes in barometric pressure and humidity levels. Signs of anxiety may include panting, pacing, finding places to hide, attention seeking, whining, or even defecating and urinating inappropriately.
Before jumping to a sedative, we like to try other options first. For starters, always monitor your own reactions during a thunderstorm, any human anxiety or fear can be sensed by your pets and passed onto them. Avoid paying special attention to your dog, and instead be positive and upbeat while going about your normal routine. Playing a game with your pet to keep him or her preoccupied may be beneficial.
A nice option is a relatively new product on the market called a “Thundershirt” and has shown great promise in these anxious dogs (and cats too!). This shirt provides constant pressure to the dog’s torso, and the pressure has a calming effect – think of swaddling a baby, or providing your dog with a long lasting “hug”. Seems too simple to work, however our clients and staff have had great success with this shirt- and it’s drug free!
Another product available that helps manage stress-related behaviours in dogs is the “Adaptil” Collar, Adaptil Spray, or the Adaptil Diffuser. It contains canine appeasing pheromone analogue, or a “happy dog” pheromone that can help to reduce stress. Creating a space for your pet to go during the storm that is comfortable and quiet, infused with the Adaptil pheromone will often be enough to take away the anxiety he or she is experiencing.
If none of these products are adequate, visit your veterinarian for further options regarding anti-anxiety medications, or possibly a visit to an animal behaviourist.
Do you have a question for the vet? Ask Dr. Julie Woodward at the Animal Care Centre of Strathmore. See their ad on this page.