Summer storms are on the way and that makes a lot of people nervous. Millions of animals experience severe storm phobia every year. It’s little wonder – dogs and cats have been naturally conditioned to be weary of storms since the dawn of man. Not only do they sense these storms earlier than we do (thanks largely to being more sensitive to barometric pressure drops and increased static charges).
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your pets stay calm through a violent thunderstorm.
Use a Humidifier:
Dry air is ground zero for static electricity, which can create huge anxiety in pets. After all, they are much closer to the ground! Add a humidifier to your pet’s favorite room. Not only can help it improve the air quality, it can reduce the amount of static charge on carpets.
Create Safe Areas
Choosing a grounded area for your dog or cat to wait out the storm is a great way to give them a tool to cope. Not surprisingly, bathrooms and basements are usually the best places to hang out as these areas are grounded.
One advantage of crating is that pets have a safe place to escape during scary storms. If your pet is not accustomed to crating, this is a bad time to start working with them. Creating a good, old-fashioned blanket fort might be just the ticket. Set up some chairs, drape a thick quilt over the top, give your pets a special treat and read a book aloud to them. Your voice helps keep them calm and gives you both some bonding time.
The pet industry has had a rapid response to help combat storm phobias in pets. The result is a plethora of effective pet products to choose from for reducing anxiety. Here is a look at a few:
There are many options for helping a pet deal with storm anxiety. Body wraps, like the Thundershirt or the Anxiety Wrap are ideal for reducing anxiety in pets. These are available in a variety of styles for both dogs and cats. These wraps apply gentle, constant pressure – much as you would swaddle an infant – and are simple to put on your pet.
The Happy Hoodie is a slightly different product and work by decreasing noise. While this is primarily designed for groomers to use on dogs in force dryers, we’ve found it effective to place on our pets during fireworks and storms.
The new CALMZ system uses a two-part system that may help soothe anxiety by using acupressure and acoustic therapy. Since it uses vibration and music to reduce anxiety, it may not be for every dog, but it is another tool to build your phobia arsenal. Be sure your dog is accustomed to wearing this prior to putting on during a stressful time.
Some of the best ways to keep pets calm naturally is through the use of pheromones. Animals (and people) naturally emit pheromones for a variety of purposes. Some help pets to stay calm, others are used to attract the opposite sex, and there are hundreds of others types.
Synthetic duplication of calming pheromones are unique in their ability to help your pets relax during storms. These are species-specific, so be sure you provide the correct pheromone for each pet. We love these for use in multi-cat and multi-dog homes, as animals tend to “influence” one another with fear-based messages. Pheromones work on the same premise by calming multiple pets at once.
Natural remedies to calm pets
Natural remedies are ideal if they are used properly. Essential oils can be harmful to pets when used improperly, so try to stay with hydrosols, which are much better for pets. These are some natural calming solutions that can be used safely with pets.
- Bach’s Rescue Remedy: Specifically developed to help reduce anxiety and safe for all species (including human!). Developed with floral remedies like Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum, Clematis and Impatiens, that have already been diluted in a water and glycerin base.
- Licks ZEN: Two formulas are available for dogs and cats. This veterinarian-developed natural supplement helps promote calmness and decrease problem behaviors. Includes organic herbal ingredients like chamomile flower, eleuthero root and ashwagandha root, as well as l-theanine and Tryptophan.
- EarthHeart Canine Calm: Formulated specifically to help reduce anxiety in dogs (not safe for cats). Contains 100% pure essential oils of bergamot fruit, tangerine peel, lavender flowering tops, rose geranium flower, sweet marjoram leaf, and ylang ylang flower in liquid coconut oil.
Sight and Sound:
Teaching your pets not to fear thunderstorms can be very beneficial to you and your animals. Add a thunderstorm soundtrack to your playlist and gradually help your pets get more accustomed to the sounds.
- DogTV is an easy way to provide exposure to unusual sounds and also act as a means of enrichment for pets.
- Another option is Pet Acoustics, which offers programmed music that has been proven to decrease anxiety in animals. These are great ways to distract your pets during storms.
- ZenCrate recently developed a “smart” den that helps alleviate anxiety in pets. Featuring a curated anti-anxiety playlist, sound insulation, comfortable orthopedic bed, motion-activated fans, and vibration-dampening floor, this crate may be the solution you’re seeking for a severely phobic pet.
As a last resort, and only with the approval of a veterinarian, there are a number of medications available for dogs and cats with severe storm phobia. These should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, as they may increase anxiety in some pets. These types of solutions can impact your pet’s health if used too often and will lower your pets body temperature, so be sure you work with your chosen veterinary hospital team.
No matter what methods you choose to keep your pets during thunderstorms, remember that it takes planning to get it right. Experiment with different methods prior to storms. The most important thing you can do is to stay calm yourself – animals will feed on our emotions. If we’re calm and fearless, the chances of your pet being calm and fearless are exponentially increased.