As I sit reading I feel a cold wet nose come up and push my hand in an urgent way. I need you, it says. I reach down to pet Louie G and she is shaking. This can only mean one thing, thunderstorm.
Louie G wasn’t always afraid of thunder and fireworks. It started for her around 4 years. Most dogs will start to display noise phobias between the ages of 1-5. Cats can also have noise phobia but typically not as often or as severe. With thunderstorms there can be more involved than just the noise; change in barometric pressure, static electricity can also upset some pets.
Here is a list of some common signs of noise phobia:
- Hiding (most common sign in cats)
- Trying to escape (digging, jumping through windows or going through walls, running away)
- Seeking the owner
- Expressing anal glands
- Seeking constant company of the owner
- Not listening to commands
- Trembling or shaking
- Dilated pupils
- Vocalizing (barking or meowing)
Living in Florida with the daily summer thunderstorms and the upcoming 4th of July Holiday can make this a scary time of year for our pets. Noise phobias will not go away and can become worse over time but there are some things that we can do to help. The first and simplest thing is to be sure that your dog has had plenty of exercise, a tired dog can be a bonus.
ThunderShirts have helped some dogs. The thing with the shirt is that you need to put it on your dog at times when no storms are coming so they don’t associate the shirt with the storm. You could also use a snug fitting t-shirt.
Canine Audio Therapy is a system where you play cd’s of thunderstorms or fireworks for your dog to desensitize them to the sounds, this can also be time consuming. I had a client that did this with her rat terrier, Foxy, and it worked great for them. You could also try playing soothing music for your pet to distract them like the Positively, Victoria Stillwell series. When we are pet sitting over firework holidays we will typically leave on the TV or music to help override or knock down the outside noise.
Herbal or flower remedies like Rescue Remedy have been very popular. You can even use this yourself if you are afraid of the thunder. Dogs Naturally has a list of herbal remedies and how to dispense them. Of course, if your pet has a really bad experience with thunder or fireworks you can talk to your vet so they could prescribe something stronger.
Dogs will instinctively look for a “den” type safe place when they are frightened, under a bed, in closet, bathtub. Louie G always liked a crate with a blanket over it or to just lay next to me and let me snuggle her. During a thunderstorm you could try to rub a dog down with a dryer sheet to stop the static electricity. You just need to find the thing that will give your pet the most comfort.
Be sure that you dog has on their tags but beware, collars and tags can come off, so a micro chip is highly recommended before the fireworks start. Have a tag or collar with your dog’s name and your phone number on it, make sure the contact information is current. There are also GPS collars you can get to track your pet in real-time. Whatever you chose to do be sure to keep your pet in the house during fireworks. Be aware that some dogs have been so terrified from the noise that they have jumped through windows. Closed windows.
If your pet gets out and runs away be sure to check around your home and neighborhood first, they may just be hiding in the bushes or under a house or shed. Make posters for your neighborhood, post on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor.
Please keep your pets safe this summer and 4th of July