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Thunderstorm Phobia in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations, and costs!

Anyone who has ever seen a dog tremble with fear during a thunderstorm knows how sad it is to watch a dog that is normally well-behaved become fearful and pant, pace, cling to their people, hide under beds, and jam themselves in the smallest places trying to escape their and find their very own safe place.

And while…

Thunderstorm phobia is just want most “vets” call this behavior, it can also show up in dogs who suffer from it when there are other loud noises such as fireworks and door bells, in extreme cases with slamming doors. In dogs, with severe cases of thunderstorm phobia, they have been known to claw through walls, chew up rugs and carpet, and even break though glass windows in their ever-increasing panic.

But…

When treated properly, early on, it is possible for assistive devices to be used to help dogs during storms or for behavior modification therapy to help dogs get desensitized to thunderstorms.

Symptoms of Thunderstorm Phobia in Dogs

The phobia, brought on by a stimulus which elicits a fear response, may produce the following signs;

  • Pacing
  • Excessive vocalization
  • Breathing heavily (panting)
  • Shaking/Trembling
  • Hiding or remaining near owner
  • Excessive saliva (ptyalism)
  • Destructiveness
  • Self-inflicted wounds
  • Incontinence (fecal)

Some internal body systems may also be affected, including;

  • Cardiovascular – abnormal heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Endocrine/metabolic – stress induced hyperglycemia (excess glucose in the bloodstream), increase of cortisol levels
  • Gastrointestinal – lack of appetite, upset stomach
  • Musculoskeletal – injuries that are self-induced trying to escape
  • Nervous – overstimulation (adrenaline and non-adrenaline)
  • Respiratory – rapid breathing (tachypnea)
  • Skin – acral lick dermatitis

Causes of “loud noise” phobia in dogs

While veterinary medicine has not been able to completely be sure as to what causes thunder phobia there are several possibilities, or combination of possibilities, that cause these fears including;

  • Barometric pressure change
  • Rain
  • Static electricity
  • Strong winds
  • Lightning and thunder.
  • Lack of storm exposure as a puppy
  • Owner, unintentionally, reinforcing fear
  • Genetic predisposition to emotional reactions

Affected breeds

While any dog can have a fear of thunderstorms, storm phobia is particularly common among herding breeds such as;

  • Border Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Rottweiler

Diagnosis

If you think your dog may be suffering from thunderstorm phobia please take them to see their veterinarian as soon as possible.  The veterinarian will need to rule out other conditions that cause similar behaviors, associated with thunderstorm phobia, such as separation anxiety, barrier frustration (when a dog jumps or lunges at other dogs when they are behind a fence or barrier), and noise phobias. After these other conditions are ruled out, additional tests may be necessary to identify whether other conditions have emerged from the fear of thunderstorms.

Treatment

Please remember to avoid confining your dog in these situations as it will have an adverse effect.

There are types of behavior modification that in conjunction with medication, e.g. anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants that your veterinarian may recommend.

Behavior Modification

  • Don’t punish or try and comfort your dog while the storm is taking place
  • Often used in conjunction, counter conditioning and desensitization
  • Desensitization includes exposure to a recording of the stimulus at a lower volume, so as to not provoke fears and then, if your dog remains relaxed, the volume is gradually increased.
  • Counter conditioning is the teaching of a response, such as to sit and relax, which isn’t compatible with a response to fear. To facilitate learning a food reward is often used.
  • There are audio recordings of with the sound of thunder available to reproduce the stimulus that takes place during thunderstorms.

Make sure that you seek expert consultation before trying any of these techniques as improper use can actually cause dog owners to worsen the thunderstorm phobia.

Medication

If your veterinarian prescribes anti-anxiety medication they will need to periodically due blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and a biochemistry profile to check that the dosage is correct and there aren’t any unintended consequences.

Other Treatments

No definitive studies have been done on the efficacy of commercially available products, such as pressure wraps (e.g. Thundershirts and Anxiety Wraps) and pheromones, in assisting thunderstorm phobic dogs. There is also a commercially available cape called The Storm Defender Cape, which is said to reduce the static charge, i.e. static electricity (electrometric radiation) that some storm phobic dogs may adversely react to. Also, commercially available are sprays and diffusers that are said to calm a dog because it may mimic the pheromones released by a dog’s mom.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have myasthenia gravis (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!

Because…

The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Cost

The average cost for treating thunderstorm phobia in dogs is $250-$1650.

  • Veterinary examination: $50-$150
  • Blood Test: $75-$350
  • Behavior Modification Training: $650-$1500
  • Anti-Anxiety Medication: $30-$100 (30 days)
  • Storm Cape: $50-$60
  • Wrap: $40
  • Thundershirt: $50
  • Anxiety Wraps: $30
  • Dog Appeasing Pheromone Spray: $45 ($30 days)
  • Dog Appeasing Pheromone Diffuser: $35-$50 ($30 days)

This is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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