web analytics
Login
Subscribe
Breaking News         Bell County KC (2)     10/19/2014     Best In Show Judge: Mrs. Carol Tobin Murray     Best In Show: GCH Saks Winning Card     Illinois Capitol KC (2)     10/19/2014     Best In Show Judge: Mrs. Ann D. Hearn     Best In Show: GCH Kamterra's Legato     Troy KC     10/19/2014     Best In Show Judge: Shirley D. Limoges     Best In Show: CH Merry Go Round Coach Master     South Jersey KC     10/19/2014     Best In Show Judge: James Covey     Best In Show: GCH South Folk's Sweet Harmony     Del Valle DC Of Livermore (2)     10/19/2014     Best In Show Judge: Mr. Robert H. Slay     Best In Show: GCH Bugaboo's Picture Perfect     Protecting the Whole Family: Shelter Provides a Safe Haven For Pets As Well As Victims Confused by Veterinary Oncology Terminology? Let Me Help You Figure It All Out! Abraham Lincoln’s Dog, Fido It Takes A Village – Update The American Kennel Club Website

We'll email you the stories that fanciers want to read from all around the web daily

We don't share your email address

Thunder Struck

When we moved from California six months ago, I suspected that our two dogs, Nellie and Quinn, might not take kindly to the frequent thunderstorms we would experience in the mountains of North Carolina. My hunch was accurate. While I was enjoying the late afternoon rockin’ and a rollin’ my two little pumpkins were experiencing a whole lot of shakin’ and quakin’! Left to her own devices, I sense that Nellie would not be bothered by the thunder, but her best buddy Quinn’s panting, yawning, trembling, and clingy behavior were clearly a bit contagious.

Thunder and Lightning are frequently scary for dogs

I needed help and sought advice from colleagues who specialize in dog training and behavior. They had several good suggestions for riding out the storm with a thunder-phobic dog.

Step number one is to pay close attention to weather forecasts and know when thunderstorms are likely to roll in. Anti-anxiety strategies are far more effective when implemented before rather than after Mother Nature’s “music” begins.

Music calms the soul

Provide a “safe place” for your dog to ride out the storm. Ideally, this is a small, dark space such as a crate (door left open) or an enclosed room with curtains drawn along with a radio or stereo playing to drown out the sound of the thunder. Acclimate your dog to this environment. It will help if he associates this special spot with special treats or a food-dispensing toy.

The Thundershirt® is a tight fitting wraparound body shirt designed to apply gentle, constant pressure to the dog’s torso. This contact is intended to reduce anxiety and fearfulness. Researcher Temple Grandin believes that such “body enclosure” has a profoundly calming effect.

Desensitization is another option in which a recording of thunder sounds is initially played at a low enough volume that it does not appear to cause any fear or anxiety for the dog. The volume of the recording is very slowly increased over time until the dog no longer responds to the sound, even when loud enough to mimic real thunder. Add to this desensitization some counter-conditioning in which the dog receives something cherished (tug-of-war, food treats, brushing, tummy rub) while the thunder recording is playing, and he will hopefully begin to react to the real thing with pleasant associations rather than distress.

Keeping Relaxed

Pheromone sprays and collars are safe and relatively inexpensive and may reduce thunder-associated anxiety.

Natural supplements such as L-theanine (an amino acid found in tea leaves) and melatonin (a naturally occurring hormone) may decrease anxiety in response to thunder.
Medications that reduce anxiety (anxiolytics) may be of benefit. Benzodiazepine drugs, such as Valium and Xanax, are potent anxiolytics when used at the lower end of the dosage range. At higher dosages they tend to cause sedation. After consultation with your veterinarian, a “practice dose” or two should be tested independent of a storm to find the appropriate dose for your dog. Acepromazine, a commonly prescribed tranquilizer for dogs, is not recommended because it causes sedation but does not significantly reduce anxiety.

Easier said than done, but do your best to relax and behave as if everything is completely normal during the course of a storm. Any anxiety on your part will be contagious to that mind-reading four-legged companion of yours.

I encourage you to consult with your veterinarian and a reputable trainer or behaviorist as part of your dog’s thunder desensitization program. Also know that the techniques described above can be utilized for most any noise phobias (fireworks, shotgun blasts, etc.).

Fireworks are Scary!

Here’s what I’ve done thusfar to alleviate Quinn’s thunder-phobia which has, in turn, markedly reduced Nellie’s anxiety. Quinn wears a pheromone collar and when thunderstorms are in the forecast, I give him a morning dose of melatonin. These tactics combined with use of a Thundershirt® and my consciously calm behavior seem to be turning the tide for my “thunder-struck” little boy.

Is your dog fearful of thunder? If so, what have you tried and how has it worked? If you happen to be a dog trainer or behaviorist, I hope you will chime in with your experiences.

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Website: http://www.speakingforspot.com
Spot’s Blog: http://www.speakingforspot.com/blog
Email: dr.kay@speakingforspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/speakingforspot

Written by

Dr. Nancy Kay wanted to become a veterinarian for just about as long as she can remember. Her veterinary degree is from Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, and she completed her residency training in small animal internal medicine at the University of California-Davis Veterinary School. Dr. Kay is a board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and published in several professional journals and textbooks. She lectures professionally to regional and national audiences, and one of her favorite lecture topics is communication between veterinarians and their clients. Since the release of her book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life, Dr. Kay has lectured extensively and written numerous magazine articles on the topic of medical advocacy and veterinarian/client communication. She was a featured guest on the popular National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Dr. Kay's newest book is called, Your Dog's Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet. Her award winning blog, "Spot Speaks" is posted weekly (www.speakingforspot.com/blog). Dr. Kay was selected by the American Animal Hospital Association to receive the 2009 Hill’s Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award. This award is given annually to a veterinarian or nonveterinarian who has advanced animal welfare through extraordinary service or by furthering humane principles, education, and understanding. Dr. Kay was selected as the 2011 Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year, an award presented every year by the American Veterinary Medical Association to a veterinarian whose work exemplifies and promotes the human animal bond. Dr. Kay has received several awards from the Dog Writer’s Association of America. Dr. Kay's personal life revolves around her husband (also a veterinarian), her three children (none of whom aspire to be veterinarians) and their menagerie of four-legged family members. When she's not writing, she spends her spare moments in the garden or riding atop her favorite horse. Dr. Kay and her husband reside in Hendersonville, North Carolina.