Anyone who has ever seen a dog tremble with fear during a thunderstorm knows how sad it is to watch a dog that is usually well-behaved become fearful and pant, pace, cling to their people, hide under beds, and jam themselves in minor places trying to escape there and find their very own safe place.
Thunderstorm phobia is just wanted 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 doorbells, in extreme cases with slamming doors. Dogs with severe cases of thunderstorm phobia have been known to claw through walls, chew up rugs and carpets, and even break throughh glass windows in their ever-increasing panic. But when appropriately treated, assistive devices can be used early on 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 that elicits a fear response, may produce the following signs;
- Excessive vocalization,
- Breathing heavily (panting),
- Hiding or remaining near the owner,
- Excessive saliva (ptyalism),
- 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) increases 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 ultimately be sure as to what causes thunder phobia, there are several possibilities, or combination of options, that cause these fears including;
- Barometric pressure change.
- Static electricity.
- Strong winds.
- Lightning and thunder.
- Lack of storm exposure as a puppy.
- The owner unintentionally reinforces fear.
- Genetic predisposition to emotional reactions.
Most Commonly Affected breeds
While any dog can have a fear of thunderstorms, storm phobia is widespread among herding breeds such as;
If you think your dog may suffer from thunderstorm phobia, please take them to their veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will need to rule out other conditions that cause similar behaviors associated with thunderstorm phobias, 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 states have emerged from the fear of thunderstorms.
Please avoid confining your dog in these situations, as it will have an adverse effect. There are types of behavior modification in c, conjunction with Medication, e.g., anti-anxiety Medication or antidepressants, that your veterinarian may recommend.
- 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 stimulus recording at a lower volume to not provoke fears, and then if your dog remains relaxed, the book is gradually increased.
- Counter conditioning is teaching a response, such as to sit and relax, which isn’t compatible with a reaction to fear. To facilitate learning, a food reward is often used.
- There are audio recordings of the sound of thunder available to reproduce the stimulus during thunderstorms.
Ensure you seek expert consultation before trying these techniques, as improper use can cause dog owners to worsen their thunderstorm phobia.
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.
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 sprays and diffusers are said to calm a dog because they may mimic the pheromones released by a dog’s mom.
This brings us to…
Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals. We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them. This is why if you feel your pet may have thunderstorm phobia (or any other health issue), you will want to h; you’ll be 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 them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!
Cost of Treatment
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 also 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 suitable 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.