March 01, 2022

My 4 top tips to ease thunderstorm anxiety

My 4 top tips to ease thunderstorm anxiety
Dr. Chris Brown

With heavy rain and thunderstorms repeatedly sending the furry family scurrying, I thought it was worth looking at why they so many dogs and cats find it all so stressful. And what you can do to help...

So here are the tips you need.

Let's start with the wet weather. Almost all pets (with the exception of Retrievers!) have a primal fear of getting wet. But why? Well, most of that worry is driven by an instinctive awareness that becoming sodden with water can lead to life threatening hypothermia in the colder climates where our pets originate from. That's why they'll obsessively shake and groom until they're dry. Even after a bath...

Now onto the biggest worry of them all. Thunderstorms. 

Here are the big signs they’re struggling with the approaching storm (Note: Some are subtle)
- More panting
- Not able to settle and pacing
- Side eye glances at you
- Flattened ears and tail between the legs
- Lots of Salivating
- Shaking
- Hiding around the house. Especially behind and under furniture

But considering that a storm is such a natural event, their massive fear wouldn’t stack up unless something else was happening in their hairy lives. And now we know what it is…

The challenge? A thunderstorm is one of the biggest sensory overloads they ever experience. Especially when dogs and cats are so finely tuned into sights, sounds, smells and feelings.

Yes, the loud booms of thunder cause stress levels to rise. But most pets are already cowering well before storms arrive. And that’s because they can sense that sudden drop in barometric pressure just before a storm. But that’s not all. There’s an invisible force at play that many researchers now believe sends dogs and cats over the edge.

Their fur becomes a magnet for static electricity which builds up as the storm approaches and then discharges when their (wet) nose or feet touch a metal object. This shock turns what is a small fear into something that looks more like a full on phobia. The static theory may explain why dogs and cats often take refuge in bathrooms or sinks which are low static zones.

So what can you do? Quite simply, help them relax. All while ensuring that small fear doesn't become a full blown freak-out. 

Step ONE: Protect them from the stress with something that's actually proven to help. The L-theanine in my Calm + Collected treats is working so incredibly well for so many of you. Even with just 1/3 or 1/2 the recommended dose. Yes, it's that effective. Given how early they sense storms and start their freak out, I’d recommend giving the treats 2 hours before the storm is predicted to hit. Using your phone’s weather app can be useful to tell you when it’s due. 

Calm + Collected
Calm + Collected

Step TWO: Is ensuring they’re inside with no prospect of escaping and then being hurt. The number of injuries from fences, dog fights and car accidents actually skyrockets in storms.

Step THREE: Up next, it’s the interesting part. Watch where they take shelter and create a ‘den’ there with lots of soft cushions and blankets for them to burrow under. If they’re pacing and can’t settle, lead them to the laundry or bathroom and create their storm shelter there.

Step FOUR: Finally, pull down blinds (to stop flashes) and put on some white noise (classical music, a fan, load of washing) to drown out the thunder claps from outside. There is also some research that turning on the shower actually neutralises the electricity if they happen to be in the bathroom.

They will get through it. But understanding why they worry so much will help to calm the emotional storm they would otherwise suffer with in silence…

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