Some pet owners cringe at the thought of an approaching thunderstorm. Storms, especially severe ones can be stressful events for any person, which can be compounded by the stress experienced with pets during and sometimes after the storm.
Dogs are afraid of thunder for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is that they don’t understand what the loud noises are and perceive it as a threat. Another reason is that they are feeding off your own fear and angst and want to protect you through the fearful storm.
Pets afraid of storms will enter fight or flight mode. We traditionally see many lost pets during and after thunderstorms as they enter flight mode, scale fences and run as fast as they can. If your pet is likely to flight, we recommend keeping them in a safely confined area such as a laundry or bathroom. If you have no option but to keep them in the yard, ensure their microchip details are up-to-date so we can contact you as soon as they are found. If you’re not sure your details are up-to-date, make an appointment with your veterinarian who will provide your pet’s microchip number as well as Australian Microchip Databases. It is important you keep your contact details on these databases current so you are able to be contacted as soon as your pet is found.
If your pet is likely to enter fight mode, you’ll need behavioural intervention. Some dogs have been known to chew through walls and become aggressive simply because they are very afraid. The best course of action is confining your pet in a safe space such as the laundry or bathroom. Where possible, stay with them and keep them as calm as possible. You can do this by playing tug-o-war, fetch, or any other game they enjoy as a distraction. We also recommend turning the television volume up or playing calm music as a sound distraction during the thunderstorm. Keep calm and maintain normal behaviour so your pet senses your comfort. If they feel like the circumstance is no different to any other, they’ll adjust their angst accordingly. In the event you’re not able to be calm around your pet, we recommend seeking advice and assistance from a qualified animal behaviour expert.
Under no circumstances should you ever tie-up or tether a pet during a thunderstorm. This predicament simply adds to their anxiety and sadly, we’ve seen some terrible and potentially life threatening injuries as a result. A frightened pet who is tethered will hurt themselves without fail and will likely strangle themselves out of fear. A safe, confined room is a better option than tethering and your company is ideal for a frightened pet.
In severe instances, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe a sedative to help your pet relax during a thunderstorm but this is an extreme measure. It’s best to tackle the issue and help your dog learn they are safe during storms. At the very least, you’re both there to offer eachother comfort while you both ride out the storm.
If your pet is injured or has gone missing in a thunderstorm, and your veterinarian is closed, Perth Vet Emegency is available to help. We're also available to the scan for microchips on any lost pets you have found.
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