SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Storms aren't just scary for people. They can seriously frighten your pets. Storm phobia is very real and very common, and your pet's reaction can mean serious consequences for them, and your home.
So many animals are scared of storms that pet stores are filled with products like Thunder-shirts, calming collars, and calming chews. But vets say the key to keeping your pets calm during a storm is you, and your response to their fear.) The signs are hard to miss; the frantic scratching, the tortured whining and pacing and the creative hiding.
"If I’m sitting here, she'll try to get underneath me, behind me, by my feet."
It's usually all fun and games for Ruby Weyrauch's terriers, Molly and lucy. That is, until thunder strikes.
"Anytime she hears a clap of thunder, Molly will start to freak out." And Lucy soon follows her sister's lead, even taking it a step further.
"If I’m not home, it becomes a lot worse and Lucy gets destructive during that time.”
Veterinarian Dr. Mike Divine says it's important to understand what they need.
"Your pet will tell you an awful lot through its actions, as to what to do." That can mean letting them hide in their safe space, holding and comforting them, or in Ruby's case, using medication to keep Molly and Lucy calm.
"If I know it's going to storm, they get dosed with Benadryl. I talked to their vet and he told me exactly what dosage to give them. It takes the edge off." Doctor Divine relies on Acepromazine for his worst cases. He also believes the various calming products at pet stores like the Thunder-shirt, can help in less severe cases. "
"They definitely help some dogs to some degree, depending on the animals and how terrified it may be. It mimics someone holding them and coddling them."
But if you want the symptoms to stop for *good*, Dr. Divine says you have to treat the actual problem and desensitize your pet to storms "You want to play with them with their toys during the thunderstorm. You want to get their mind off the storm and onto something else. You want to be doing things with them to reinforce the good side of it, not the bad side. They tend to be scared their whole life if you don't work them through it.”
Bottom line, keep doing what you've been doing to keep your pets calm and safe during a storm. But the next time you know one is coming, start desensitizing them. Give them their favorite treat or play with their favorite baby and eventually, you can actually cure their fears.
Veterinarians say the worst thing you can do is just ignore your animal's fear and hope they grow out of it. They say most of them won't, and many will just get worse if you don't get them some kind of help.