When you have the intelligence of a toddler, thunderstorms can be scary. Many dogs don’t feel safe exhibiting signs of worry and even panic. Knowing how to help them isn’t always that easy. Here are some simple strategies that I recommend to ease panic during a storm.
- Prior preparation: for dogs with severe storm phobia prior preparation is essential to set them up for a storming success. This includes the following points of action:
- Know whether your furbaby is an active or a passive coper. Active copers respond to danger by moving/fidgeting/barking. Passive copers retreat and hide underneath or behind furniture. Provide outlets for coping to occur. Be with them but avoid interrupting them while they are engaged in this behaviour. E.g. Holding them tight if they need to move to feel safe will backfire. Similarly, pulling them out from under the bed (safe place) will lead to panic escalation.
- Know what panic looks like: for dogs, this includes dilated pupils, heavy panting, heart rate racing, drooling, fidgeting, ears pulled up and back on their head, furrowed brow. When your furbaby is in a state of panic they are completely unable to respond to you and in a zone where they are in survival mode. This is an extreme state of distress. Seek help from your local emergency veterinarian. If you know your furbaby has experienced thunderstorm panic before seeking assistance from your local general practice veterinarian ahead of the next storm. There are a variety of panic and anxiety medications that can be used in advance of a storm to ease the panic.
- Useful adjunct treatments include massage and good quality essential oils. My favourites for storms include frankincense, cedar and lavender.