Helping pets through hurricane season
Symptoms occur with greater frequency during hurricane season because of rapid changes in temperature, fluctuations in air pressure, and additional stimuli such as thunder and lightning. Though it has been proven that many animals can sense these changes, it is unknown why reactions vary between animals. As a result, it’s difficult to formulate an effective treatment for all of our pets.
It’s a good idea to speak with your veterinarian or a pet behaviorist before attempting to treat your pet’s anxious behaviors. Even your pet’s trainer can point you in the right direction for advice. Professionals will be able to recommend a few lines of treatment that will ease your pet’s anxiety or help him cope better without harm to himself or others.
A few common treatment suggestions include:
Therapy- Talk to your veterinarian about your options including positive reinforcement therapy, which aims to reward the pet for positive behaviors during the storm without disciplining him for negative behaviors. Some methods also aim to associate the source of anxiety (thunder, for example) with a positive experience (receiving a treat).
Compression Jacket or Wrap- You’ve likely seen or heard about thunder shirts and wraps, snug fitting garments for dogs that seems to magically minimize the symptoms of their anxiety. There is no magic involved. The garment works by using pressure to relieve stress (common in massages and yoga practices). For humans, it’s the mental equivalent of giving our scared pet a mobile hug. These garments often reap satisfactory results for mild to minor cases of storm anxiety.
Hiding- When storms arise, some pets simply want to stick their heads under a pillow and hide. It’s harmless and effective. Drape your pet’s crate or house with an opaque but breathable cloth so that external stimuli is blocked out or decreased. This creates a safe haven for the pet where he can escape and relax. This may be used alone or in conjunction with a jacket or wrap. Be sure your pet cannot escape your yard. Occasionally the desire to hide can cause animals to simply run. Check that your pet has a safe environment.
Toys- In addition to therapy, chewers and scratchers will need to target their energy in a positive way. By presenting the appropriate toys the pet is less likely to injure himself, other pets, or your possessions. In some cases, it may help to play with your pet during the storm to create a distraction from the weather. If you find a toy that your pet truly enjoys, do not leave it out for the pet to play with at their convenience. Bring the toy out often and let your pet enjoy it, and then put it away. Your pet will begin to get excited each time they see this ‘favorite’ toy. When a storm hits, you may be able to provide enough distraction with this toy to help soothe nerves.
Music- Music’s calming effect is not lost on pets. Animals’ ears are much more sensitive to sound than our own. They will often hear, and feel, thunder before we do. It can be helpful to leave music playing when a storm is approaching. This can lessen the outside sound of thunder and help your pet feel the storm has moved on sooner.
And lastly, don’t forget the basics, like plenty of food, water, and medications for yourself and your pet. In emergencies you never know how long you may lose access to the necessities we have grown accustomed to. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t be caught unawares, your pet will thank you!
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