Thunderstorm phobia in pets can manifest as any of the following: trembling, panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite, hyperactivity, restlessness, pacing, hiding behaviors, house soiling, escape attempts or possibly aggression. The phobia is triggered by anxiety brought about by some part of the storm. Patients can be anxious because of sights or smells of the approaching storm, and even from the change in barometric pressure or level of ions in the air that may precede a storm. Some patients will do better alone, some do better when with a companion during a storm event. Some patients may do better confined, while others may have increased anxiety and possibly injure them selves when confined. The important thing is to provide comforting measures that work best for each patient, while making sure that each patient is safe from harm.
Comforting measures can include providing a place away from the storm and its associated noises, sights and smells. Blocking windows so lightning can’t be seen can be helpful. Playing a radio or other white noise so thunder is heard less. Or, offering fun toys to distract a patient from the storm. Remember, a patient is very anxious during a storm event. Punishment may only increase the anxiety and make the situation worse. Praising or comforting your pet may also reinforce anxious behaviors and perpetuate the problem. For patients who do not respond to simple comforting measures, there are additional options that can be discussed with your veterinarian. Some patients may benefit from head collars, storm defender capes, pheromones or in some cases mild sedatives. These measures should be used in conjunction with behavioral modification and training and should never be used without first consulting with a veterinarian.