Dog’s Eye View: Flash, boom — It’s that time of year
You may have a dog that suffers from thunderstorm phobia or know someone whose dog does. This is a very upsetting problem for owners and dogs and can cause serious injury to some dogs. Following is information veterinarians, researchers, behavior professionals and lay people have found that may be of help.
A phobia is defined as a sudden and intense response that is out of proportion to the actual threat. It may take only a single exposure to the perceived threat, and the dog’s behavior does not improve with gradual repeated exposures to the cause of fear.
Your dog may tremble, show rapid eye blinking and hyper-vigilance, hold his ears back, drool and engage in repetitive behaviors such as paw licking, being overly clingy or hiding. Some dogs have jumped through plate glass windows or doors to get into or out of a house during a storm.
Storms involve multiple components, including a booming sound, a change in barometric pressure, wind, rain and lightning. Sound is a major component. Also, as a storm approaches, there is an increase in static electricity in the atmosphere. One theory is that the charged air can cause shocks to dogs. Dogs with long or thick coats can be particularly affected.
Two factors that can contribute to your dog’s fearful response to an approaching storm could be less exercise than usual or the absence of a person to whom your dog might go to for comfort. Your dog also may be reacting to your response to the situation.
The following are some suggestions from Dr. Nicholas Dodman to help determine if static electricity is affecting your dog and how to help.
• Wipe your dog down with anti-static laundry sheets.
• Mist your dog with water from a spray bottle.
• Spray the undersides of your dog’s paws with anti-static spray.
• Make sure your dog is on a tile or linoleum floor.
• Put your dog in the car and take her for a ride.
Dodman notes, “Many dogs are happy as bugs in a rug when put in a car and driven around during a storm.”
Many dogs will seek the comfort of a bathtub, lie beneath a sink or go to a basement during a storm because the plumbing in those areas provides grounding. Some dogs will hide in their crate. Provide a safe refuge for your dog by leaving open access to these areas.
The use of body wraps — such as a Thundershirt or an Anxiety Wrap — has been shown to be beneficial as reported in a recent study conducted by Nicole Cottam, Nicholas H. Dodman and James Ha.
Body wraps resemble little coats but are wrapped snuggly around your dog’s chest and torso. They are designed to create tactile pressure that is thought to produce a calming effect on the nervous system. The results of this study provide evidence that the Anxiety Wrap was used in the study was therapeutic for thunderstorm phobia in many dogs and reduced the severity of clinical signs by almost 50-percent.
Body wraps should be put on your dog before they are in a full-blown panic and should be removed when the storm is finished. It’s wise to introduce and use the body wrap frequently and outside of the fear-inducing situation so it does not always foretell something bad.
In this area where storms tend to build up in the afternoon, coming home for lunch and putting your dog’s body wrap on, along with putting some of the other suggestions into place before you go back to work, might go a long way toward helping him during this thunderstorm season.
Stay on tap and tune in to the world of veterinary medicine to see if there may be new products coming out that could be helpful with noise sensitivity in dogs. Science is always advancing.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training LLC with more than 30 years of experience.
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