Does your pet struggle with anxiety when a thunderstorm is in the forecast? The bright strikes of lightning, disturbances in the atmosphere, and loud crashes of thunder can cause even the bravest pets to hide under the bed. In our area, thunderstorms are a normal occurrence, so it’s important to have tools and coping mechanisms you can lean on to help your cat or dog navigate weather-related stress. Remember, your pet’s fear is natural and not something they should be punished for.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Both dogs and cats can exhibit various signs of anxiety or nervousness. These symptoms can vary from one pet to another, and some pets may exhibit a combination when they are anxious.
Common ways pets may display their nervousness include:
- Aggression or destructive behavior
- Changes in body posture
- Excessive self-grooming
- Excessive vocalization
- Hiding or seeking comfort
- Pacing or restlessness
- Trembling or shaking
While under extreme stress, pets may also try to run away, escape through open doors and windows, and cause harm to themselves.
Ways You Can Help
Effectively managing weather-related anxiety will help keep your pet safe from harm. A few ways you can help include:
- Create a safe space: Create a designated safe space for pets during storms. This area should be comfortable and secure, preferably an interior room or a basement where the noise from the thunder is muffled.
- Desensitization and counterconditioning: These techniques involve gradually exposing pets to storm-like sounds or stimuli in a controlled and positive manner to help them build a positive association with the experience. Offer them high-reward treats or toys to associate storm-like noises and calm behavior with positive reinforcement.
- Medications: In more severe cases, your veterinarian may suggest medication to reduce the anxiety. This should be done under the guidance of a veterinarian, as prescription medications require a proper diagnosis and evaluation of your pet’s overall health.
- Regular exercise: Engage your pets in regular exercise, as physical activity can help reduce anxiety and promote overall well-being.
If you need an expert opinion to manage severe cases, please reach out to your primary care veterinarian for recommendations on medications or a certified professional dog trainer with experience in anxiety management and training. Our Animal Emergency Hospital of Volusia team and Animal Emergency Hospital of DeLand are here 24-hours a day, 365 days a year to help if your pet needs emergency care.