It's been quite some time since Australia has experienced rain and flood on such a scale. No sooner had we weathered the recent La Niña summer, we were also hit with the ‘one-in-one-hundred-year’ event that has seen vast areas of NSW declared disaster zones.
While storms can be scary for humans, spare a thought for your pooch. Extreme weather conditions such as rain, hail, and thunder can be terrifying for dogs. In fact, some dogs can experience an extreme phobia of storms (called Astraphobia), making the La Niña season a source of considerable anxiety and distress in affected individuals. Not all dogs that are fearful of storms have Astraphobia, it’s important to consult your veterinarian to diagnose this condition and suggest treatment.
How do I tell if my dog is fearful of storms?
Individual dogs can respond to storms in a variety of ways. If you are concerned that your dog may be fearful of storms, here are some behavioural signs to look out for:
- Pacing around the house or yard
- Leaning into you or trying to climb on top of you
- Flinching at thunder or the sound of heavy rain
- Attempting to escape the house or yard
While you can’t change the course of a storm, there are ways you can help your dog feel safe and protected.
1. Drown out the noise: Dogs' acute hearing means they are much more sensitive to loud noises. Try drowning out the sound of the storm by closing all of the doors and windows and low volume ambient music. There are products available such as Through a Dog’s Ear that feature music especially designed to help calm dogs.
2. Create a safe space: If your dog has a small private area they can retreat to (such as a crate or wardrobe), ensure they have access to this space during a storm. It's important that you leave the door open so that they're free to come and go – a dog that feels trapped will feel more anxious and fearful!
3. Nice activities: Take their mind away from the chaos outside by giving them something enjoyable to engage with such as a stuffed Kong or long-lasting chew treat.
4. Calming products: Adaptil have specialized collars and diffusers designed and clinically proven help lower a dog’s overall anxiety.
If your dog shows signs of persistent and severe fearfulness during extreme weather, please consult with your veterinarian to determine whether they would benefit from anti-anxiety medication, even if it’s just situational medication to ‘weather the storm’.
They will look to you for comfort, ensure you are available to help guide them through this stressful time - which like any storm, will pass.