It’s early spring in Minnesota, which means that it will soon be thunderstorm season. As adults, we have the advantage of knowing that most thunderstorms just make a lot of noise and will soon pass. Since dogs and cats have no way of knowing that, they often become extremely frightened at the first sign of a storm. Having empathy for your pet is important, but offering too much comfort can reinforce her anxiety. Your pet can pick up your own nervousness, so be sure to take a matter-of-fact approach to the storm as you wait it out with your pet.
Provide a Safe Place for Your Pet to Retreat
You know your pet’s personality best. Some dogs and cats prefer to stay right by their owner’s side while others will run for a hiding place as soon as they hear thunder. If your pet falls into the latter category, prepare him a safe place indoors where he can retreat until the storm has passed. It can be a crate for dogs, a bathroom closet, the corner of a bedroom, or any quiet place where he feels safe. If you think your pet will feel trapped and become more anxious in a closet or bedroom, be sure to leave the door open just a crack.
Other At-Home Solutions
Soothing music, background noise from the television, or even the hum of a washing machine can drown out the noise from the storm and make your pet feel more at ease. If your pet stays close to you, try playing with her as you normally would. Toss a tennis ball for your dog or get your cat to chase some string to distract her from the anxiety she feels.
Thunder vests are another possible solution for your pet’s anxiety. They fit snugly on the body and target pressure points that calm the nerves. It’s similar to swaddling a crying baby. Thunder vests can help in other anxiety-provoking situations as well, such as fireworks and visiting the veterinarian.
Condition Your Pet to Accept the Noise
You may be able to train your pet to tolerate thunderstorms by conditioning him to the noise. Search online or at a local store for a compact disc that plays thunderstorm sounds. On the first day, play the sounds at a very low volume and go about your normal activities. If your dog or cat shows fearful behavior, re-direct him to a pleasant activity but otherwise don’t give the behavior any attention. Increase the volume of the CD each day until it approaches that of a real thunderstorm.
We Can Help in Cases of Severe Anxiety
Some pets won’t respond to any of these methods to reduce anxiety and may need medication to cope with storms. We encourage you to schedule an appointment at Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo to discuss your concerns. We can prescribe anti-anxiety medications if your pet needs it or help you come up with other solutions.
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