Parts of Australia have seen a deluge of rain over the past week causing thunderstorms, floods and damage in many areas. Whilst we lament about our soggy feet or inconvenience, our pets are often highly stressed during wild weather so it is important we help them feel safe during thunderstorms.
The tips below will not only help in any storms to come, but these tips will also help keep your dog safe during rowdy celebrations and fireworks.
If you have a puppy then find yourself a CD or download a recording of thunderstorms and fireworks and start by playing it at a very low level to help desensitize them to the sounds.
You need to do this very carefully by starting it down very low and gradually increase the sound over days and weeks. The earlier you can start exposing them to the many things they will encounter in their life in a positive way, the better. (See our socialisation video to learn more about this). You can still do this with older dogs; it may just take longer, and requires patience and a keen sense of observation to ensure they are showing no negative response so that you can slowly increase the volume bit by bit.
Desensitisation aims to familiarise your dog with loud storm noises in a safe environment so that they are no longer bothered by the thunder and lightening.
Pheromone based products and herbs
Pheromone based collars, sprays and adapters you plug in the wall may also help some dogs with anxiety during thunderstorms and fireworks. They use a chemical that copies a dog’s appeasing pheromone that is released by a mother dog from her mammary area after her puppies’ birth. This pheromone is a comforting message providing a strong signal of security to puppies as they explore the world and face so many challenges.
Just like they can for us humans, dogs can be given calming herbs like chamomile, passion flower or valerian, but you need to give these supplements time to kick-in so they may not be an ideal choice to use as a treatment for thunderstorm phobias. However, you can start it now to help them be prepared for future storms and fireworks. Rescue Remedy drops in their water may also help keep dogs prone to anxiety and phobias.
Some dogs respond well to the use of a thundershirt, particularly if it is also combined with the calming herbs or pheromone products. The theory behind these is that they wrap tightly around them like they are being held or being cuddled, which can help reassure them.
Provide a safe place in the home
Find a room in the house (often the main bedroom is best as it also has a strong smell of you, particularly if you are not going to be at home) where the windows can be closed and blinds down, or curtains to help insulate them from seeing and hearing the storm. Place their dog bed or crate inside the room to help keep them sheltered with their usual blanket and favourite toy for comfort.
Keep them safe if they must be outside
It is important to keep pets inside and safe from harm during storms. However, if you are unable to leave them in the house then make sure they have a sturdy and protective kennel or area in the shed with a bed or blanket to keep them comfortable, warm and feeling protected.
Vet emergency rooms often see an influx of dogs with road injuries as they escape in fear from their house or yard, often running onto roads into oncoming traffic. Take measures to help ensure your dog can’t escape from it’s yard – you’ll be amazed how high a wall a scared dog can scale when trying to flee, so inward slanting lattice to help stop them climbing over fences is a good option and make sure to remove any chairs or other objects they could use to climb up and over.
If you lose or find a dog after wild weather, here’s some tips to help you know what to do HERE.
Remember the fear is very real to our dogs and cats, so don’t take their fear lightly. Many dogs have been seriously injured or lost their life during thunderstorms and fireworks so it is vital we keep them safe.
Till next time, Lara & Darcy x