It’s storm season. Eek. Where thunderstorms are striking fear into even our bravest little buddies. But I’ve uncovered some surprising reasons why they cause so much stress. And what you can do to help…
So here are the tips you need…
The first surprise is that this isn’t a fear limited to the dog side of the fur divide. Cats (including my Cricket) are common storm stressors. And while they may not pant, pace, escape or leap off a 3rd floor balcony like a friend’s dog recently did (he was ok), the hiding under the bed or in the bathtub says a lot.
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
- 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, as many people suspect, 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 mild discomfort then turns what is a small fear into what appears to be 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? The key is really ensuring that the innate fear doesn’t escalate into a full on thunderstorm phobia and 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 half 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.
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…