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Storm-Phobic Dogs: What Can You Do?

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August 21, 2012

A storm is approaching, and the sound of thunder fills the air.  Your dog is hiding, cowering and quivering in fear.  Sounds like your dog suffers from a storm phobia.  You are not alone, a multitude of dogs are scared to death of storms.  It’s awful to watch our beloved dogs reacting with such terror to something we can’t “save” them from.  Where do we turn for help?

Let’s start by defining what exactly a phobia is. The word phobia comes from the Greek word “Phobos” – meaning morbid fear.  A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder which can be described as an irrational, persistent fear of a situation or object.  In this case, the sound of thunder.  Quite often, dogs with a thunder phobia end up with a generalized loud sound phobia, and can’t tolerate anything really loud.

There are a wide variety of suspected reasons for a dog having a storm phobia; ranging from a trauma in his past,  poor socialization skills, or even genetics.  No one can be really sure, and the reasons can vary from dog to dog.  Bottom line is, if you have a storm phobic dog, you have a problem on your hands, not just because of the possibility of disruptive behavior, but it can truly be a life-threatening issue, as dogs have been known to go into cardiac arrest and die from the stress of being so terrified.

There are many solutions to try – just know that they don’t work for all dogs and you may have to test several of these before finding one that works. All items can be purchased online, at a health food store, and of course from your veterinarian.

Storm Defender: The storm defender is a cape and has a lining of a light-weight metallic-type material.  It works by grounding the dog from the higher levels of static in the air that occur before and during a storm.

Thunder Shirt:  This one works by “hugging” the dog in a snug embrace which helps calm them.

Herbal Remedies:  Phermomones can often induce a calming effect.  Some of more well-known herbal products are Comfort Zone, Rescue Remedy and Bach Flower Remedies.  It would be wise to talk with your vet before giving your dog anything ingested.

Sound Therapy:  There are CDs made for storm phobic dogs.  Typically there are 2 types.  One is to help desensitize the dog to the fearful sound gradually, the other is soothing music to play while the storm is raging.

Prescription Drugs:  You can speak with your vet and ask him to prescribe something for your dog.  Xanax and Clomipramine are two that are often used.

Behaviorist:  An animal behaviorist can help train both you and your dog to handle the problem.  It is money well spent if nothing else helps calm your dog.

Having a dog that is terrified of storms or other loud noises is not fun for you or the dog.  It can be life-threatening and it is most certainly disruptive.  No one should have to live with the deep, gut-wrenching fear these dogs live with.  As the owner, it is up to you to find a way that works for your dog.

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