What a weekend! Typical Michigan, right? Beautiful weather one day and nothing but nasty the next. While we as humans might suffer from a little cabin fever due to our spring storms, the ones who suffer the most are our pets with thunderstorm anxiety. This can be such a difficult anxiety to address for our pets because we have no control over Mother Nature. Yet we have several tactics to calm your critters’ fear.
SET UP A SAFE ZONE: Think of this as a safe room for your pet. Keep out the flashes of lightning by choosing an interior room with no windows. Turn on some music to drown out the thunder. Place your pet’s favorite bed inside and voila – palliation of the panic.
TRY A THUNDERSHIRT: If your pet is the type that wants to snuggle during storms, a Thundershirt may be the ticket for you. The snug fit creates the sensation of an owner holding the pet close, which gives a sense of security.
PHEROMONES AREN’T JUST FOR FELINES: Have you ever heard of Feliway for cats? Well, the makers of Feliway have now created ADAPTIL, a pheromone for dogs that can calm noise phobias (like thunderstorm anxiety), car craziness, and even separation anxiety (might want to pick some of this up before we all head back to work)! Adaptil can be applied to bedding, a handkerchief, or even the Thundershirt to reduce your dog’s fear. You can apply the spray as needed or purchase a collar to get your pet through all of our spring storms.
SAFE SUPPLEMENTS: We carry a supplement called Solliquin that has been documented to reduce panic in storm phobic pets. It seems to be more effective in dogs that are hyperactive during storms, so if your pet is a pacer, this might be the supplement for you. Other supplements that have anecdotal evidence of efficacy include Rescue Remedy (add a few drops to the water as needed), CBD oil (be careful about additives in the human versions!!!), and melatonin (call us for dosing instructions).
BETTER LIVING THROUGH MODERN CHEMISTRY: If all of the above is just not enough, we can certainly prescribe anti-anxiety medication for your pet. For your pet’s safety, we absolutely require a full physical exam within the last year and we may recommend bloodwork to be sure their liver and kidneys can process the medication.
A final note:
The absolute best way to eliminate most anxieties is through behavior modification. This means gradually exposing your pet to the scary stimulus and pairing it with something positive. My favorite example of this was my first pet as an adult—a yellow lab named Surfer. I was helping out with a clinic at Purdue during his first 4 weeks with me. My roommate at the time was unemployed – during May in Indiana. Thunderstorm alley! He developed a habit of giving Surfer a piece of hotdog every time lightning flashed or thunder boomed. For the next 10 years, Surfer would salivate and stalk the refrigerator during storms! So, if you have the time and ability to re-create the sound of thunder or the bright flash of lightning, this is a fantastic solution! Used in conjunction with any of the above suggestions, behavior modification is even more powerful. So, bust out those hotdogs (unless your pet has a food allergy) and watch some of the spring storms together. Try some supplements or a Thundershirt to make it even easier.