Is your dog terrified of thunderstorms or fireworks? For some dogs, thunderstorm phobia can be serious, and even result in panicking that is severe enough to cause self-injury. Please talk to your veterinarian about medications and techniques to calm your dog and prevent panic during a storm or holiday. Here are a few tips that may help:
If you have a puppy, early training can reduce the incidence of thunderstorm phobia as an adult dog. A puppy that shows any anxiety over storms should not be comforted. This reinforces their fear. At a young age, feeding your puppy small bites of delicious treats when you hear loud thunder or see lightning can help them to associate a storm with fun, positive rewards and minimize future storm-related anxiety.
Some thunderstorm-phobic and firework phobic dogs are calmed by exposure to dog appeasing pheromones (D.A.P.). This is a natural method to decrease anxiety and stress in many dogs for a multitude of reasons.
For dogs who are too scared to respond to treats, a method of desensitization can decrease thunderstorm phobia over time. This includes repeatedly playing audio recordings of storms at very low levels in the background for short intervals. It is crucial to gradually increase the intensity and duration over a period of weeks to months without making any changes until your dog relaxes and accepts rewards at each intensity level. See your veterinarian about developing a specific desensitization plan.
Some dogs need a combination of desensitization and medications. Your veterinarian is the best resource for information about drugs that decrease storm-related anxiety. These medications can also be helpful during a holiday with fireworks. Anti-anxiety medications are different than tranquilizers and are preferred. Both types can be used on an as needed basis (in anticipation of a storm or holiday). Ask your veterinarian to explain the pros and cons of each type of drug in treating thunderstorm phobias.