top of page

Weathering the Storm Season

The season for inclement weather is in full swing for many, and animal guardians everywhere are feeling the additional stress that comes when you have a companion who experiences storm anxiety. The symptoms of this can look a little different from individual to individual, and can depend on the intensity of their level of stress. If your furry friend struggles with being able to relax or settle during thunderstorms, here are some things to consider:

  • Try masking the sound. So many factors during stormy weather can affect your pet, even the barometric pressure change. While we can't control that, we can attempt to alleviate the auditory experience. It's unlikely you'll be able to completely cover up the sound during severe storms, but even partially doing so can be helpful. I prefer brown noise specifically, as the lower frequencies tend to do a better job promoting calm in my experience. Generally speaking, music, even music designed to calm dogs, isn't going to be the help we want it to be in these situations. That's because our aim is to drown out the offending sound so they're exposed to the scary stimulus as minimally as possible, which in turn will help lower their stress levels.

  • Let them access a safe space where they feel secure. If your animal is one of those who prefers to hide during storms, it's okay to let them (as long as the place they choose to hide is physically safe for them to be in). My dog, Remmy, used to try and crawl into awkward small spaces that dogs weren't meant to go, and had a hard time getting comfortable. Additionally, he had confinement anxiety and would not choose to go into a crate. My solution for him was to use a children's pop-up play tent with a dog bed inside. It checked all of the boxes and allowed him to feel safe enough to relax.

  • Try a Thundershirt. Unless your companion has an aversion to wearing things (harnesses or clothing for example), you can try a Thundershirt. They should ideally wear this sometimes for short windows when it's not storming, so your dog or cat seeing it get pulled out doesn't become a predictor of storms. Like anything else here, some individuals may be helped greatly with this, and some may not see a difference so playing around to figure out what works for your companion will be important in successful management of this stressor.

  • It's okay to comfort them, if they're looking for it. This myth that comforting a scared animal will reinforce their fear is thankfully just that, a myth. So if Fluffy solicits for physical contact, go for it, just be gentle and calm about it. The only asterisk to this one is that the key is making sure they're soliciting for it. Don't follow your companion around and try to convince them they'll feel better with your affection. They may not and it's not personal if they don't. Many animals prefer not to be touched or messed with when they're stressed or scared. Just like people, how they prefer to de-stress or cope is going to be dependent on them as an individual.

  • Watch out for escape artistry. While most animals are going to absolutely avoid going outside at all costs, a well-timed clap of thunder and the door being opened can occasionally result in a lost pet (this is all true for fireworks as well). When an animal hits a true state of panic, their sense of fight or flight kicks in and while we may find it counterproductive to run into the storm itself, some animals may perceive themselves to be running away from it because they don't actually know how storms work.

  • Speak to your vet. Many animals have such significant levels of distress during storms that a situational anxiety medication can be tremendously helpful for providing relief. If you see your pet experiencing anxiety or fear during storms, call your vet and see if they're a good candidate.

  • Layer your management techniques. One of my dogs did well with a natural stress relief product and a hiding space. Another one did best with a situational anxiety medication and a t-touch wrap. Both dogs benefited greatly from brown noise played at a moderate volume. Using more than one thing to maximize on the stress relief effects is a great strategy, you'll just have to play around with which ones work best.

All of the things listed above are meant to act as a way to manage the problem, not solve it. If you're interested in learning about how to help your companion overcome noise sensitivity, reach out for more information! If your cat or dog has developed a new anxiety surrounding storms that they previously did not experience, reach out to your vet first to ensure your pet is healthy, as sudden changes in behavior can sometimes be an indicator of underlying discomfort.

13 views0 comments


bottom of page