Weathering the Storm: How to Help Scared Pets During Storms

Have you noticed your pet shaking, pacing or drooling when a storm rolls through? Or maybe they try to run out of the door and chew or dig through a wall or the floor? If so, your pet may have Astraphobia, or fear of thunderstorms. While this is a common issue in dogs, their reactions can potentially put them in danger. This month is Disaster Preparedness Month so in preparation the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) wants you to know how you can help your pet weather any storm.

When it comes to storm phobias, there are several things that may cause your pet to act out. For some, it may be sudden loud noise or bright light. For others, it may be the change in barometric pressure. It’s hard to say what exactly may be the trigger for an individual pet, and sometimes there may be multiple triggers.

It’s always important to keep an eye on your dog, especially during a storm. For dogs that chew or ingest things when scared, they can get seriously ill or develop an obstruction. For pets that tend to run or bolt, they could get injured, lost or eat something outside that they shouldn’t. It’s a good idea to be aware of your pet’s fears and start addressing them before they become severe.

How to Help a Scared Pet

The good news is there are lots of things you can do at home to help your pet. Please remember that one thing does not work for all pets—so keep trying and see what works for them.

  • Keep calm! Your dog is aware of your emotions and are more likely to get upset if you are.
  • Let them hide. If they prefer to stay under the bed, in a closet or bathroom, let them stay there.
  • If your pet does not have a place to hide, consider creating a safe place for them. Interior rooms where there is less noise or flashes of light are a good place to start.
  • Distracting your pet by playing games, turning on the TV or soft music, or giving them a food puzzle or Kong filled with their favorite treat are all great ways to distract your pet.
  • Anxiety vests or shirts may also help your pet feel calmer.

Seeking Help from a Professional

Storm phobias can and may worsen with time. If your pet’s fear is moderate to severe, you may find that you need additional help. Working with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist will be key. There are also many medications that can be used in addition to training to help with your pet’s phobia.

The APCC recommends that if you are trying a drug prescribed by your veterinarian, make sure you read the instructions carefully and make sure you are confident about how to administer the drug. It’s best to do a “test run” of the medication before you give it to your pet during a storm, that way you’ll know how they will respond. Make sure to do this when your regular veterinarian’s office is open so that if there are any issues, you can reach out to them with questions or concerns.

If you believe your pet may have ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

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