Many dogs suffer from storm phobias as well as noise phobias that can be frustrating for both them and their owners. These phobias often display themselves through behaviors like having accidents in the house, excessive barking, destruction, hiding, and many more undesired actions.
Some dogs’ phobia can be triggered by a variety of different things. The loud noise associated with the storm can be detected by dogs before we can hear it. They may display signs of fear before we even know a storm is approaching. Other aspects like smell of the air, electricity in the air and human activity before the storm can cause anxiety and fear behaviors to be manifested.
How can we treat the phobias?
There are a variety of treatment options for dogs that experience fear and anxiety during storms. These treatment options range from behavior modification through nutritional supplements and anti-anxiety medications.
Desensitization – This is exposure to a stimulus that can cause a phobic response. Initially exposure is at lower levels than your pet would normally be exposed to. Over time intensity is increased to more normal levels. The slow build up can help minimize reaction to storms and loud noises when they suddenly arise. Using a CD or recording of a thunderstorm can be played at low levels and gradually increased in volume. These recordings can be found online for purchase or streaming.
Counter-conditioning – In counter-conditioning a response that is incompatible with a phobia is elicited. For example, playing with or feeding the dog treats while the dog is subjected to the low minimal levels of the noxious stimulus (noise, thunder etc) should achieve a positive association between sound and treats.
Some dogs can find solace in a crate or a space that is just for them. Additionally, there are dogs who find it comforting to get under a “security blanket” to combat storm fears. Due to the risk of overheating a dog, don’t force this method. You might give it a try, though, monitoring the dog to see if it helps and to find a covering that provides the benefit without excessive heating. Don’t leave a dog alone with the covering if the dog is likely to chew and swallow pieces of it.
Thunder shirts are a compressive t shirt that is often soothing to dogs during times when their phobias are causing discomfort and anxiety. The shirt can be put on during storms and may help keep your pet calm and comfortable. It can be purchased at most pet stores or at www.thundershirt.com.
DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) diffuser – Pheromones are chemical compounds naturally produced and detected by dogs as well as most other animals. Pheromones are used for signaling and to communicate a variety of things from animal to animal. The pheromone used in the DAP diffuser can act as a calming agent. The diffuser is plugged into an outlet and, similar to many air fresheners, will release a pheromone that only your dog will detect.
Composure treats – These are chews that are designed to be given daily. They are a nutritional supplement that contain vitamins and amino acids that can lead to reduction of stress and anxiety.
Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM)
TCVM may benefit your dog and decrease anxiety in a variety of ways.
Acupuncture – Specific acupoints are stimulated in a fashion that can calm pets
Herbs – Er Yin Jian and Shen Calmer are used to prevent excessive restlessness, fear, and nervousness.
Our TCVM practitioner can meet with your dog to develop the best treatment plan based on their individual needs.
For a healthy pet there are a variety of anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medications that can be used for management of phobias and anxieties if behavioral therapy is found to be unsuccessful.
Your doctor may discuss options for medications that they feel may benefit your pet. A physical examination and blood work may be necessary to ensure your dog is healthy enough to take the medications available.
What can you expect?
We may be able to manage your pet’s phobia and anxiety, but will not likely cure them of the fear. Our goal is improvement of your dog’s fear and keeping them and you as comfortable and happy as possible.