Maybe you were home like I was Saturday when the storm came through. The lightning and thunder certainly got my attention. I went from room to room looking at the trees swaying and the intensity of the rain. I had a trio of Dachshunds hovering around my feet, moving and stopping when I did. Their faces said it all, "We’re scared. What is this?"
People aren’t the only ones anxious when lightning flashes and thunder crashes. Our animal companions, with their extra sensitive hearing and awareness, can become edgy, too – or worse.
Canine auditory sensitivity is 10 times that of humans. Some dogs feel static electricity caused by pressure changes as the storm builds. They can even seek relief trying to “ground” in the bathtub or by a pipe.
Cats’ auditory sensitivity is even sharper than dogs. Although felines tend not to be as frantic in the face of storms, they will seek safe places to hide, causing anxious owners to search high and low. Try the linen closet or under the bed!
Any dog at any age can develop anxieties about thunderstorms or other noises. Fortunately, most affected dogs cling just a bit more, like mine. Some will whine and pant a little. A sad few have extreme reactions and may be destructive to things or themselves.
When I realized how anxious the "girls" were, I changed my behavior. It was either that or huddle on the couch smothered in dogs. I went back to my desk to write, and they went reluctantly back to their beds.
Dogs pick up our visual cues far better than we realize. Resist pampering your panicked pet. Try distracting with happy activities and sounds. Never punish. Access to a safe place like their crate, an open closet or the bathroom helps. Create a relaxing environment with soft music.
If your dog has a more extreme reaction to storms, discuss the anxiety with your vet to ensure there is not a medical ailment causing this stress. Veterinarians may suggest anti-anxiety medications, even natural remedies to help the pet cope.
For more advice check out local community hotlines for free behavior help. I’m not sure about other areas, but SPCA Tampa Bay has had a free service for many years: 727-586-3591, ext. 133.