If your dog is afraid of thunder, you know just how hard it is to deal with the pacing, panting, shaking, whining, shivering, moaning and so on that accompany this irrational fear. My dog is terrified of thunder, and I have tried all kinds of things to help her. After doing a little online research, I have found that people deal with this problem in a variety of ways. In this article, I would like to share these methods along with what has worked for me and my dog.
One method that a lot of people seem to have success with is desensitization. This is often a good way to teach animals and children how to deal with irrational fears. For fear of thunder, it can apparently be quite effective to use a DVD or CD of a thunderstorm. You can buy DVDs and CDs of thunderstorms fairly inexpensively. In fact, one of the dollar stores has a good one for just a buck. The idea is that you can play the CD quietly during quiet times to get your dog used to the idea that thunder will not hurt him. This may help your dog get used to the noise of thunderstorms, but he may still be afraid because of the electrical disturbances and the high amount of ozone in the air.
You might also try moving into a small, windowless room with your dog when it is stormy. Snuggle up under a blanket with your dog in a big chair. Your dog will probably still be nervous and shivery, but at least he will be comforted. By staying away from windows, you will prevent your dog from being able to see the lightning, and hopefully, the noise of the thunder will be a little muffled. It may also help to provide some white noise like music or TV to baffle the sound of the thunder. If your dog will accept it, you may want to offer a chew toy.
Now, having said all this, I have to tell you that my own dog, Amber, is oblivious to all of these methods. She will snuggle up with me in a big chair covered by a blanket to cower, whine, shake, moan, and pant in my face, but no amount of being in a small room, offering a toy, or anything else will calm her down. As far as playing my dollar store CD of a thunderstorm goes – it’s just as bad as a real thunderstorm to her way of thinking, no matter how quietly I play it! In fact, she has become so sensitive to the very idea of thunderstorms, that a light drizzle with no thunder and lightening can send her into a frenzy.
For Amber, I have had to resort to natural sedation. I give her one 250 mg capsule of kava kava – an herbal muscle relaxant. If I am trying to sleep, I put her in her crate with a blanket over it for added security. Otherwise, she lies on top of me shaking, moaning and panting. Since she weighs 75 pounds, this is completely unworkable!
When I use kava kava for myself, I take three capsules. My dog weighs a little more than half my weight, so I give her one capsule, one time. This seems to be enough to take the edge off for her. You will want to talk with your vet about the right dose of kava kava for your dog. Frankly, your vet may not know anything about it and may suggest that you use prescription sedatives instead.
Since I avoid prescription drugs for myself, I avoid them for my pets. Kava kava is mild and fairly innocuous. Recently, it has been in the news for adverse side-effects, but these have always turned out to be the result of massive consumption of the herb coupled with alcohol or other drugs. I have used kava kava safely for years as a sleep aid or to help with muscle pain after a strenuous workout. When it is used as directed, I believe it is quite safe and effective.
Whether you use a natural remedy or a prescription medication is up to you. Whatever you decide, proceed with caution and watch your dog carefully for any signs of adverse reactions to any medication you give him. Do not give kava kava or anything else to a cat without consulting your vet. Cats are much more sensitive than dogs and lots of human and dog medications and products can kill them.
If you have several dogs who are big sissy-babies about thunder, it is probably a good idea to separate them as they will just get each other more excited. I have found that having a crate for each dog is a great idea. My dogs are both well crate trained and like to be in their crates when anything scary is going on.
Of course, if you are going out and you expect a thunderstorm, it is a good idea to crate your dog in advance. At least, leave your dog inside rather than outside. Dogs are highly likely to become lost, injured and/or killed during thunderstorms if they experience irrational fear. They bolt trying to find safety and may end up becoming entangled in a fence, being run over, or meeting some other terrible fate. Of course, if your dog is like mine, you won’t have any choice in the matter. If I were to leave her outside during a thunderstorm, I would surely return home to find she had torn the door down!
Here is an article of mine that explains crate training and shows you a picture of my crazy dog!
HOUSE TRAINING YOUR ADULT DOG