By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette
With strong to severe storms possible this week from Wednesday night to Thursday morning, it’s important to plan out good weather preparedness techniques. While most people are ready to brave any storm, pets aren’t always as courageous.
From a behavioral, emotional, and psychological standpoint, dogs and cats carry a different perception of the world than people do. They can smell and hear better than their owner. They also can’t easily explain away loud sounds and bright flashes of light. Pets can become frightened and anxious. They cling to their humans, or hide under the bed. Others become restless or destructive. But what causes “storm anxiety” in pets?
Veterinarians suspect pets become fearful through any combination of wind, thunder, lightning, barometric pressure, or other natural sounds or sensations humans can’t feel. Storm anxiety, while not entirely curable can be managed through a few helpful adjustments around the home.
Behavioral modification – Classical conditioning with toys or treats work well, creating a positive association with upcoming weather changes. Thunder can be a snack. Heavy winds can be playing with a favorite toy. It’s important to create these connections early, so storms can be viewed as a positive or rewarding experience.
Create a relaxing environment – Find a quiet “hangout” space for your pet, or follow them to the room they feel safest. Make that area comfortable with a pet bed, and leave the door open if they want to leave the area. If the pet is crate-trained, leave the crate door open, as confined spaces create anxiety. Favorite toys, or puzzle toys like Kongs can be filled with snacks for additional distractions. Additionally, the sounds of loud thunder can be lessened through white noise or relaxing music.
Try an anxiety shirt – Specialty pet clothing such as Thundershirts or Anxiety Wraps apply gentle pressure to a dog’s torso, reducing fear and providing a swaddling acupressure effect. Storm Defender capes have a metallic lining that shield pets from static discharge. While no item is guaranteed, they don’t provide any physical limitations or mobility restrictions, though it’s a good idea to get your pet used to wearing a garment before a thunderstorm hits.
Prescription medications – For more severe cases of “storm anxiety,” veterinarians can provide anti-anxiety medications with serotonin, though it’s important to let your pet’s doctor decide which medications are right for an anxious animal.
For anxiety management, see what works best for your pet. Each of these adjustments can provide results either by themselves or in combination with each other. As long as their owner is by their side, your pet will find a way to truly weather the storm.
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