Does your dog try to fit under the lowest furniture possible when it starts to thunder? Does your cat’s tail bush out like the latest Swiffer attachment? Is the 4th of July your pet’s least favorite day of the year? If so, your pet may have a noise phobia. Many dogs and cats are afraid of thunderstorms, firecrackers, backfiring cars and loud noises all together. Here are four tips to help you help your frightened furry family member cope.
1. Create a Safe Place
One of the best ways to help your pet endure loud noises is to provide a hiding place that is somewhat insulated from the noise, a “safe place”. This safe place may be a crate in the basement, or it may be a crate draped with blankets to help insulate from the noise. Acquaint the pet with this safe place before a noisy event by giving it a treat or feeding it in this area so that it associates this place with peace and safety.
2. Go Shopping For a “Thundershirt”
“Thundershirts” are fairly new to the market and may be helpful in reducing stress in your pet. These tight-fitting garments apply constant gentle pressure that may make your pet feel secure. This is a relatively low-cost, drug-free treatment that may be a great solution for a range of situations that may cause your pet anxiety from loud noises to traveling. Be sure to introduce the Thundershirt to your pet before an actual noisy event occurs so that they are used to the process and do not begin associate the Thundershirt with the unpleasantness of loud noises.
3. Desensitize Through Repetition
An ideal method to help your pet deal with thunderstorms is to try to modify its behavioral response to a noisy stimulus. This will take some work on your part. You can use a recording (downloaded from the internet) of a thunderstorm to help desensitize your pet to these sounds. According to Dr. Valerie Tynes, this should be done by “playing the recording at a level that is so low that it does not appear to cause the pet any fear or anxiety. Over repeated sessions, the volume is slowly increased until the pet no longer responds to the sound even when it is as loud as the sound of a real thunderstorm”.
Let’s be clear, this is NOT an overnight process. This will take time, consistency, and persistence. You can help the process along by sitting with your pet while the recording plays and petting it or giving it treats, so that it begins to associate these noises with positive rewards. All of this desensitization training must be done before the actual thunderstorm occurs. Trying to train the pet during a storm may be counterproductive.
4. Veterinarian Recommended Drug Treatment
If all else fails some animals may require anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medications to help them weather the storm. The choice of anxiolytic and should be discussed with the pet’s veterinarian. Each pet is different and may respond to medications differently. Good communication between the pet owner and the veterinarian is essential to ease the fears of a pet that has noise phobia. If anti-anxiety medications the route you choose, please consult with your veterinarian and follow the prescription exactly.
These are just four of many options you can choose from to help your pet deal with their phobia. Whichever you choose just remember the following:
• Introduce the method to your pet in advance of a thunderstorm.
• Associate the treatment with a positive reward.
• Be patient – these may not work over night so take your time.
Good luck and take care of your furry family members and they will return the love unconditionally!
About HomeFront Veterinary House Calls
Founded by Dr. Kristie Souders, HomeFront Veterinary House Calls is a premiere provider of in-home veterinary services for cats, dogs and small mammals. Dr. Kristie leads her team with more than 10 years of experience. Her work history is diverse including having served as Medical Director for the North Shore Animal League, the world’s largest no-kill animal shelter and as a Major in the Army Veterinary Corps. HomeFront Vet provides nearly all of the services of a clinic in the comfort of your home. They are convenient, cost effective and most important compassionate. For more information about HomeFront’s in-home veterinary services visit www.homefrontvet.com