Lightning, thunder, and the sound of rain falling on the roof. For many of us, a thunderstorm is a soothing opportunity to cozy up in the summer, and a welcome break from the heat.
What we find relaxing can be terrifying for dogs. About one-third of all dogs suffer from anxiety, and for many, thunderstorms are the biggest trigger. Signs of astraphobia, or the fear of thunder and lightning, can be seen in dogs often well before a thunderstorm has arrived.
Dogs may pace, pant or whine, and become hyper, anxious, destructive or reclusive before a storm sets in. According to www.about.com , they may be tipped off that a storm is arriving by the change in barometric pressure. The website offers the following tips:
- Never leave a dog outside during a storm
- Try to stay as relaxed as possible. Dogs pick up on human stress.
- Keep to your usual routine
- Provide a comfortable hiding place
- Turn up music (“Through a Dog’s Ear” is recommended, and what we use here.)
- Use a dog appeasing pheromone or a Thundershirt
While many surmise that it is the sound of thunder that dogs find so upsetting, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior department at Tufts University, believes the discomfort is related to static. On www.rover.com, Dodman said that storms send numerous shocks through the bodies of dogs. They often seek out rooms or areas that are grounded for relief. The bathtub is the most desirable, because the porcelain does not conduct electricity. He said unscented dryer sheets can help settle down some dogs.
At All About Dogs, we frequently use melatonin on high-anxiety dogs when a storm is imminent.
“It is a natural calming agent produced by your body,” said operations manager Tim Bravchok. “More often than not, it works.”
He said loud music is pumped in during storms, and that weather is monitored to make sure dogs go outside before the storm arrives. They never go out during thunder and lightning, but there are covered areas for them to go out in the rain, he said.
If a dog has increasing stress during storms, it is recommended they see their vet for an evaluation.