Pet owners are often well aware of the types of sounds that can strike fear deep into the heart of their pets, and while these sounds can vary widely, a fear of thunderstorms is actually quite common.  Some pets cope with this fear by simply hiding, while others may exhibit highly undesirable behaviors such as whining, scratching, slobbering or even tearing down door frames.  This fear typically develops between the ages of two and four years old, and it can get worse as the animal ages.  Pet owners often struggle to calm their pet during thunderstorms, but there are some things they need to understand.

How to Handle Summer Thunderstorms

When considering how to handle your pet’s fear of thunderstorms, it’s important to first understand that any undesirable behaviors they exhibit are the result of anxiety, not misbehavior.  Veterinarians and animal specialists have not positively identified the exact part of thunderstorms that causes so much distress in pets, whether it is a lack of familiarity with thunderstorms from an early age, the noise, the flashing lights, or even something else entirely.  It’s possible that pets who are normally timid or sensitive to sounds are unable to cope with the stress of thunderstorms.  That said, dogs can sense a change in air pressure and can also hear low-frequency rumblings that are beyond human detection, which means that thunderstorms can be even louder than humans are aware of.  Furthermore, some veterinarians believe that dogs can experience shocks due to the buildup of static electricity in buildings.

Fortunately, there are things that owners can do to calm their pet during summer thunderstorms:

● Cover windows with blinds, curtains or some other thing so that pets can’t see the storm outside.

● Provide your pet with a dark, safe space to hide in, such as a fabric-covered crate.  Be sure to leave the door open so they don’t feel trapped.

● Use calming music to drown out the sounds of the storm.

● Stay with your pet, so they don’t feel isolated in their fear.

● Gently stroke or massage your pet.

● Try to distract your pet with familiar games, toys and treats.

● Consider desensitizing your pet to the sounds of thunderstorms by playing these sounds quietly on clear days, while rewarding your pet.  Slowly increase the volume so they learn to associate loud thunderstorm sounds with rewards.

Most importantly, be patient.  Imagine the fear they are feeling, and help them through it.