How Can I Help My Dog’s Storm Phobia?
Dogs with storm phobias can experience a high degree of stress and suffering and, although the phobia often cannot be cured, there are things you can do to manage your dog’s anxiety. Treatment of storm phobia often involves some combination of environmental management, behavior modification, and medication.
Control the Environment
Although lightening, ozone, and barometric pressure changes can trigger a dog’s anxiety during a storm, often sound and light are the primary culprits. Consider making these changes:
1. Ideally, truly soundproof an area of your home. This can be done as a DIY project, by a contractor, or even with the purchase of an isolation booth.
2. Provide your dog with access to a “safe” area such as a closet, bed, or interior room. The best place is somewhere without windows or with windows covered by black-out curtains. Preferably this area is a place your dog likes to place themselves. If the safe space is a crate, use a sound muting cage cover such as Quiet Kennel.
3. Some dogs do better if they are allowed access to a car. However, be very conscious of heat and cold issues, don’t leave your dog unattended, and be aware of the damage your dog might do to the vehicle.
4. Use personal devices to mute sounds and light such as ear covers (Mutt Muffs) and eye covers (ThunderCap or Doggles).
5. Mask the sounds with background “white noise” such as a radio, television, noise-producing devices or apps, or even relaxing music such as “Through a Dog’s Ear“.
6. Wrap your dog’s body with calming pressure using a ThunderShirt or Anxiety Wrap.
7. Use a calming pheromone such as ADAPTIL in spray, plug-in, or collar form.
Modify the Behavior
First and foremost, never scold or punish as it only confirms and strengthens your dog’s storm fears. But do,
8. Remain calm and interact with your dog in as normal a manner as possible. If you become anxious, he will become anxious; if you pet him and give him treats you might be rewarding bad behavior.
9. Start a Desensitization/Counterconditioning program. This is the single most important thing you can do for a dog with storm phobia, and it is best to work with a veterinary behavior specialist or your veterinarian.
10. Consider prescription medication. Anti-anxiety medications seem like the best choice to most owners, but they often need a concurrent behavior training program in order to be effective. Some medications must be given continuously and daily, and take up to 30 days to become effective; some medications must be started well before the dog becomes anxious (hours to days); and some medications must be given in combinations. Before prescribing medication for storm phobias, your veterinarian will do an exam, and possibly some blood work, looking for underlying associated issues and disease.
If you have additional questions about any type of noise or storm phobia, give us a call at (253) 475-5301 to schedule an appointment with one of our Commencement Bay Animal Hospital vets!