Thunderstorms and the Effects on our Pets
Thunderstorms can be worrying and stressful for our dogs and cats. With the warm weather thunderstorms at this time of year can go on for several days and this stress can have serious implications for our pets, affecting both health and behaviour, especially if experienced over long periods of time. If your pet becomes stressed during thunderstorms, the following advice may help you to make your pet feel more safe and secure.
How to Help Your Dog or Cat
Tip 1: If you know there is a thunderstorm forecasted; walk your dog in plenty of time to avoid it. An exercised dog may rest and be calmer. If your cat enjoys going outside, make sure they are back indoors before the storm.
Tip 2: If your dog becomes a little jumpy around thunderstorms, it is a good idea to exercise your dog on a recall lead so that you have safe control of your dog in case it decides to bolt.
Tip 3: Close all windows, vents, curtains and connecting doors in the house to help drown out the sights and sounds of thunderstorm.
Tip 4: Put some background noise on, such as the TV or radio. Playing music with a strong beat can reduce your pet's worry over loud or unpredictable bangs from thunder.
Tip 5: Allow your dog or cat to rest where it feels the safest. This may be under your bed, under the table, down the side of the sofa, or under your legs. Placing your pet's bed in this safe place, will comfort them.
Tip 6: If you are not sure where your dog's safe place is, you can try creating a den for your pet instead. Dog crates are a great way to do this. Introduce the crate a few weeks before thunderstorm for your dog to get use to, then place their bed inside to make the area nice and comfortable. Covering the crate with a duvet or thick sheet will help to drown out the noise of the thunderstorm.
Tip 7: Cats naturally like to climb and hide at different levels in their environment. This meets their instinctive needs and makes them feel safe. Take a look around your home and see what different levels you can provide for your cat to express this behaviour during a thunderstorm.
Tip 8: Do not leave your dog or cat at home alone during a thunderstorm. They will always feel more relaxed and secure with you around.
Tip 9: It can be hard to see our pet in distress at this time of year, and it can cause a lot of worry. If you can, try to stay nice and relaxed during a thunderstorm. Our pets are very in-tune with our emotions, and if we appear worried and anxious, this may make things worse for them.
Tip 10: If your dog or cat does become distressed, do comfort and love them! Don't worry, it's not possible to reinforce the emotion of fear. Comfort and reassurance can help your dog feel better.
Tip 11: The motion of licking and chewing can also help to relax dogs. Try giving your dog a kong packed with something they find tasty and rewarding, or give them a rawhide or bone.
Tip 12: Don't pick up or restrain your cat if they appear stressed. Cats appreciate a quiet space to deal with their stress on their own.
Tip 13: During a thunderstorm your cat may be less inclined to go outside. You may need to introduce a litter tray into the house. See our 'Cats and Stress' blog for advice on litter tray numbers and size.
Tip 14: Beaphar Calming Spot has been designed to help alleviate stress and anxiety. The spot on treatment contains Valerian extract, a herbal supplement noted for its calming properties. If you are concerned about the degree of anxiety your dog or cat shows during a thunderstorm, speak to your vet about anxiety treatment.
Tip 15: Behavioural therapy can also help to teach your dog or cat to cope with the unpredictability of thunderstorms, through reward based desensitisation of the noises. It can take many months of work with your dog or cat to alter their behaviour towards such noises, but in the long term this will make your dog or cat a happier pet during this time of year and reduce their stress. For more information speak to a qualified behaviourist who will be able to work through the process with you and your pet.
Oscar Pet Foods offer a free Helpline. For further advice please contact Oscar Pet Foods Pet Behaviour Counsellor; Shelley Audis-Riddell BSc (Hons) MSc on 0800 195 8000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.