on October 12, 2011
Posted in Behavior Management
Thunderstorm anxiety affects between 15 and 30 percent of all dogs. Some dogs cry, pant, whine or pace. Others seem to be glued to their owners. Some dogs panic so much they may injure themselves by jumping through windows or claw up doors in an effort to get out and find somewhere safe.
No one is really sure what causes thunderstorm anxiety. Some researchers think that it may be the noise of the thunder or the flashes of lightning that upset the dogs. Many of these dogs also react to other loud noises such as fireworks or gunfire. Other researchers feel that the change in atmospheric pressure causes changes in the dog. This could be true of dogs that react to thunderstorms but not other loud noises. Some breeds of dog such as hounds and German Shepherds, seem to be more susceptible to thunderstorm phobia. Dogs that were adopted from shelters are also more susceptible.
So what can be done for these poor dogs? Conventional treatments include drugs like clomipramine, valium and acepromazine. Some of these drugs are paired with desensitization training that pairs a reward with low level sounds of thunder. The idea is to condition the dog to accept thunderstorms while on the medication and hopefully remove it at some time in the future.
From the holistic side, anxiety wraps or storm capes have been used with good success. Approximately 2/3 of thunderstorm phobic dogs respond to these wraps which are comforting to the dogs. These wraps are reported to help with other forms of anxiety as well. Dog appeasing pheromones have also been used for this. A spray, collar or constant defuser releases calming pheromones that help the dog to relax during stressful times. Melatonin can also be used for this problem as can natural medications made from milk. L-theanine has also been used for this purpose.
Homeopathic medications like rescue remedy have also been used, as have Chinese herbs, acupuncture and music therapy. Herbal calmers that contain chamomile, hops or valerian may help to reduce the dog’s level of stress. One such is formula is Matricalm. There are many options for the poor dog that suffers from this phobia.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan