Dogs and Thunderstorms

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    Sep 21, 2012
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Dogs and Thunderstorms Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dog afraid of a thunderstorm- But I have! My previous Golden Retriever, Punkin, would totally freak out . It was to the point that I almost had to give her away. My husband was irate everytime she tore up something. She was a beautiful dog and I loved her very much and therefore didn’t want to get rid of her. However,she chewed into the wall in the garage trying to get in the door, and threw up after chewing on the door so much. Things like that did not go over too well at all!

Punkin did many other things which I can’t remember since it’s been about 10+ years since she passed away.

She just had to be near a human during a storm. I finally got an idea to put up a gate on the steps in the garage so she couldn’t get to the door. I had someone to build me a gate and a 3-sided house. ( one without a front)which I put next to the steps. I was thinking she might possibly go into it during a thunderstorm. However, no such luck! She went in it on any other day though. The gate did keep her away from the door, however. When she got inside of our house she was still scared. To make matters worse, I also go beserk . I’m totally paranoid of lightning causing a fire. So the two of us together were pretty much a basket case. My husband thought it was ridiculous that we were so scared. We couldn’t help it however.

Punkin was 12 years old in 2003 and she suddenly got sick. She wouldn’t eat anything. She had always been in good health,except for arthritis, until that point. I took her to the vet and they ran tests and found out that she had whipworms. They can totally eat their insides .I personally think that is how she died even though the whipworms cleared up. She was so pitiful.

I will always remember the night before she died. There was a thunderstorm and she was very weak. However, somehow she managed to muster up enough strength to get up the steps to the porch. Of course when I noticed her on the porch, I let her into the house. The next morning ,my daughter and I had to get a sheet and put her on it because she was so weak, Then we puledl her out to the car and lifted her onto the car seat. I was a teacher, so I called saying that I would be a little late. I took her to the vet and of course they had to get her out of the car. She died around 3:00 that afternoon.( I cried as I wrote this because it still upsets me today even though it happened in 2003. I was very attached to her)

Thankfully, I don’t have any dogs that are really scared of thunderstorms now. Sierra and Roxie,my present Golden Retrievers paw the door . However, once I let them in , they are fine. I think that’s just a ploy to get inside. Sierra just wants a chew roll (rawhide twist). Roxie , really just comes in to continue confiscating various things. As you can see, I’ve had an eventful life as far as thunderstorms go.

I’ve talked to other people who have the same problem. German Shepards are prone to be afraid during thunderstorms. One of my friends use to have a German Shepard . She said it went completely through a screened porch because it was so scared. We just never know how an animal will react to a thunderstorm, etc. until it is in that situation.

Fear of thunder and other loud noises is a common problem in dogs. No one really knows why some pets become afraid of noises and some don’t. Dogs can easily develop these terrible sound sensitivities which tend to get worse the older the dog gets. Left untreated the fear of loud noises can easily turn into a phobia (an excessive, persistent and irrational fear response to stimuli). The good news is that these fear-related problems can be successfully resolved with the right training and lots of patience.

A small recent study has found that certain dog breeds are more prone to developing noise phobias than other breeds. Many of these dog breeds at risk include breeds such as: German Shepherds, Collies, Beagles, and Basset Hounds. Please realize that more research needs to be done in the area of fear of thunder since this particular single study was pretty small overall. This study did have another interesting finding: that dogs suffering from separation anxiety were also more likely to have noise and thunderstorm phobias.

What are the typical signs of a noise phobia, such as a fear of thunder? Individual pets may display their particular signs of noise phobias in various ways such as: Panting, pacing, drooling, chewing, trembling or shaking, expressing anal glands, barking, urinating/defecating, trying to escape or hide. Concerning thunder and thunderstorms, dogs may possibly be fearful of other storm-associated trigger events such as: lightning, loud rain, static in the air, a change in barometric pressure, smells associated with thunder storms, ionic changes, and many other things we are are not even aware of.

Another thing to consider is the owner’s own attitude during the storm. You should act as if absolutely nothing unusual is happening. If the actual owner is also nervous during storms their pets pick up on this and can have a stronger fearful reaction than if the owner were actually calm during the storm. This one thing alone can easily influence the severity of the dogs fear during the storm event.

How are thunder phobias treated? First and foremost, remember to refrain from giving any kinds of rewards or punishments. This is probably the most important thing to follow through with if your dog has a fear of thunder. Petting or comforting a thunder phobic fearful pet during a storm is really positive reinforcement of an undesirable behavior. If you try to console the pet during the storm it may potentially signal the dog that the storm really is actually something he should really be afraid of – just the exact opposite of what you want the pet to really feel!

Don’t ignore your fearful dog either – just the fearful behavior. If your dog comes to you, let it share your company, but don’t baby her while she’s with you. Don’t punish the pet for showing fear but don’t reward it either. Doing either will probably only increase his current anxiety level.

What else can be done for a dog with a fear of thunder? Three of the most used options are various medications, changing the dogs actual environment, and behavior modification therapies.

Medications: These can be given individually or in various combinations. If your pet has a problem with thunder storms please consult with your veterinarian for his medication suggestions and dosage recommendations. Your veterinarian will probably suggest you treat your dog with some kind of tranquilizer. Keep in mind, these medications need to be given hours before the storm is predicted to happen.

Alternative therapies, natural herbal mixtures, are often recommended such as Rescue Remedy. Another I have heard of used by an AKC judge is Peppermint Oil which can be purchased from any health food store. Put a drop or two of oil on the bottom of each foot, right on the individual pad a few hours before the storm is to happen. Like anything else, sometimes these work, sometimes they don’t on particular individual animals.

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