Pet Talk

Q. How can we help our dogs deal with thunderstorms? Meme wakes me up when only she can hear the approaching storm (but refuses to get in bed with me) and is restless and upset throughout the storm.

A. Having a dog that is fearful of thunderstorms can be a challenging, if not frustrating, problem to deal with.

Stay upbeat and calm during a storm. Close the curtains. Turn on either the TV or radio. You may also want to provide some white noise, such as a fan or your A/C to mask the sounds of the storm. Try giving some tasty treats or play with a special toy that you use only during storms. The idea is to distract your dog and teach her that a storm means something good, not scary.

Your pup may seek out a safe spot. It may be under a table, behind the sofa, in a closet or down in the basement. Another common spot is in the bathroom. Some dogs will actually get into the tub or curl themselves around the toilet. The porcelain may provide relief from shocks they are receiving from the buildup of static electricity in the air. If your dog is crate trained this may also be a safe haven. When a thunderstorm triggers your dog’s fear, make sure it always has access to its safe spot, especially when you are not home.

There are also anxiety-reducing attire you may try. One is a Thundershirt, which is like a therapeutic hug. You could also try a snug fitting t-shirt. Another is the Storm Defender Cape. It works on the theory of the static electricity causing painful shocks. It has a metallic lining that shields the dog from static charges.

There are natural supplements such as Harmonease, which is one that has performed well in clinical trials to relieve stress. Always consult with your veterinarian before administering any supplements or medications.

Bach’s Rescue Remedy can help calm dogs. You may want to try a dog-appeasing pheromone, which mimics the natural pheromone a canine mother emits to her pups to soothe them and can have the same effect on some adult dogs. It comes in a diffuser, spray or collar.

Some dogs may need anti-anxiety medication prescribed through a veterinarian. If your pet’s fear doesn’t decrease, you might consider contacting a trainer or behaviorist.

I hope you can find a means to help Meme cope with thunderstorms. Not all dogs will lose their fear, but most will improve and learn to manage their fear with one or more combined therapies.

Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].