Few people are happy to endure the the sounds of a severe thunderstorm, complete with darkening skies, strong winds, flashes of lightning and crashing thunder. Some become extremely anxious, and for some, the fear of thunderstorms turns into a full-blown phobia.
Some pets, especially dogs, are also affected by thunderstorm anxiety to varying degrees. While some pets may tremble, whine, pace or hide under the bed during storms, in more severe cases, panicking dogs have been known to destroy furniture, jump through windows or otherwise harm themselves during storms. In either case, this type of behavior is the sign of a very unhappy pet.
Fear is a normal response to a fear-inducing situation, whereas phobias are irrational, extreme reactions in which the fearful response is magnified to the point of dysfunction. Behaviorists are not sure which part of the storm frightens pets the most - the lightning flashes and thunder, the winds blowing around the house or the sound of rain hitting the roof. Some dogs even show signs of anxiety an hour or more before a storm hits, leading to the theory that they are reacting to changes in barometric pressure.
Many cats become nervous during storms and generally hide from the disturbance under beds or in dark, quiet corners. Unlike dogs, they tend to not progress to the phobic stage - they simply wait out the storm in their safe place and come out of hiding when the storm has passed.
So what can you do to help your pet deal with thunderstorm anxiety?