Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Stress & Anxiety

3 Tips to Help Keep Your Pet Calm During a Scary Thunderstorm

A dramatic thunderstorm might only momentarily startle us, but heavy rain, thunder and lightning can be quite terrifying to some pets. Dogs and cats can have some extreme reactions to storms and their responses can be more serious than you may think.

Storm phobia symptoms vary and can range from panting and drooling to shivering uncontrollably, shedding, pacing from room to room or result in pets climbing on and clinging to their owners, according to the Humane Society of the United States. And, in extreme cases, some pets may even tear up your carpet and furniture, lose control of their bladders or bowels, cram themselves into tight spaces or jump over your fence and runaway as a fear-based response to a storm.

As a pet parent, all you want to do is keep your pet happy, healthy and safe, but your usual ways to comfort your pet and show her love may not be enough to ease her fears in these kinds of situations. If your pet tends to experience storm-related anxiety, consider trying out these tips to help ease her stress and calm her nervousness.

1. Set up a safe space for your pet.

Find a cozy spot and fill it with a few of your animal’s favorite things. Encourage your pal to use the space during her regular day so that when a storm comes, she will have a comfortable place to go to that feels safe and familiar. When it’s storming outside, consider adding a noise machine to the area to drown out the scary sounds of the storm.

2. Try to get your pet used to the storm sounds that scare her

Consider desensitizing your pet to the sounds that scare her during a storm by playing a recording of storm sounds on days when the sun is shining. Play the sounds softly at first, slowly increasing the volume over time. While the recording or soundtrack is playing, initiate a play session to distract your pet in a positive way, teaching your dog or cat to ignore the sounds of “scary” thunder.

3. Look for pet products that might be able to help.

If your pet’s anxiety symptoms are extreme, consider asking your vet about prescribing a pet sedative for her to use during thunderstorms. Or try a calming product, like the ThunderShirt or another kind of storm-soothing aid including: supplements, chews, shampoos, lotions, food, sprays, essential oils.

Also, try to avoid coddling your dog while it’s storming outside, otherwise, she’ll come to associate her nervous behavior with the reward of your affection. Instead, make an effort to show her by example that there’s nothing to fear. And if there is a serious storm on the horizon that is worth taking seriously―like a tornado or devastating hurricane―keep calm and get your family and fur baby to safety.