It’s the time of the season…. for thunderstorms. For many pet owners and pets alike, it’s the worst time of year because it produces the highest level of anxiety in their beloved pets.
While April showers bring May flowers, the weather can also be one of the most upsetting times for a pet owner whose dogs experience what the experts call “Astraphobia.”
What exactly is Astraphobia? According to Wikipedia, its is an “abnormal fear of thunder and lightning, a type of specific phobia. It is a treatable phobia that both humans and animals can develop. Dogs may exhibit severe anxiety during thunderstorms; between 15 and 30 percent may be affected. Research confirms high levels of cortisol – a hormone associated with stress – affects dogs during and after thunderstorms.
To understand what happens to a dog during this time is to understand the acute sense of hearing they have. Dogs can hear two times if not more than a human can. During a thunderstorm the atmosphere is filled with atomically charged molecules of static electricity; there are sudden changes in the barometric pressure; rolling claps of thunder shake the house; and bright lights flash through water flying all around.
As dogs are more sensitive to noise, there may be hissing, crackling, or high-pitched sounds they hear, but we don’t. As they hear the earth moving, literally, it causes special fears and anxieties that even humans don’t understand.
The signs of fear in a dog that is experiencing “Thunderphobia” are:
- Excessive panting and pacing around the house.
- Hiding in a corner, or in the basement trying to get away from the noise.
- Inability to settle and relax, even while being pet and stroked by its human.
- Shaking in fear.
- Trying to go outside to get away from the noise level, lights and smell of rain. Once outside, pup only wants to come back in immediately to get away from the noise.
What can I do to help my dog during this time? What products work best?
- Desensitizing your dog can help, but takes a firm commitment. You can acquire recordings of storms (or fireworks), which you then play at different times of the day, increasing the volume over a period of weeks. None of this will stop the house from reverberating in thunderstorms, but reducing your dog’s fear of noise will help him (and you) weather the storm. Basically you are getting your dog ready for the next big one so he’s not caught off guard.
- Remedies such as Young Living Essential Oils have holistic qualities. We recommend Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Young Living Peace and Calm. These can be purchased online and through holistic wellness centers.
- Dog Appeasing Pheromone, which is a synthetic analogue of the hormone secreted by nursing canine mothers. This can be purchased as a collar, or as a plug in room spray.
- Pet Acoustics Music Cube. A world-renowned composer, Janet Marlowe, studied canine, feline and equine hearing for close to a decade to understand noise sensitivities. Her compositions have been clinically proven to calm animals with thunder issues, separation anxiety, trips to the vet and other challenges. Product can be purchased at www.petacoustics .com
- The This product claims to mimic the feeling of a hug around the canine body and has a gentle, calming pressure equal to swaddling a baby. I’ve tried it on my own dog without success, but have many clients who swear by it.
As in any emergency, the best thing to do is be prepared. Keep a close eye on the weather reports. Preparation, as in anything, is paramount for success. Having a pheromone plug in going 24/7 in your home, or a pheromone collar on your dog, along with playing Pet Acoustics is proactive, versus reactive. Experts suggest getting ahead of the curve, so to speak. While we can’t always prepare, we do know that certain months of the year are worse than others, and being proactive will help your pets get through these difficult times. As well, enlisting the help of a professional pet sitting service or professional dog walker to run home and help is always a workable and practical solution.