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The drought is upon us again in southern Colorado. As we pray for an early return of the Spring and Summer thunderstorms, our pets with thunderstorm anxiety hope they never return.  In this two part series, we will examine the concept of “thunderstorm phobia”.  This first part will examine the symptoms. The second part will illuminate different treatment methods.

Research indicates that herding breeds or herding crosses are the most commonly affected dog. Further research indicates nearly half of all dogs diagnosed with thunderstorm phobia begin to exhibiting mild symptoms before the age of one. An interesting feature of thunderstorm phobic dogs is that their symptoms can begin hours before the storm is visible, which indicates that dogs can potentially sense early atmospheric changes. This can complicate treatment and force us to “predict” when storms might occur.

Symptoms in dogs with thunderstorm phobia can be panting, vocalizing, trembling, pacing, “clinginess”, trying to hide or escape, refusal to eat, drooling, stress diarrhea, and inappropriate urination or defecation.  Sometimes pets become very destructive and damage the home. Let’s not forget cats either. They often exhibit thunderstorm phobia, too. The most common symptom in cats with thunderstorm phobia is hiding. This may seem “mild” in comparison but still can be very stressful for the cat.

Most concerning to veterinarians is when pets try to escape their homes.  Dogs may become injured escaping through windows or being hit by a car. Although not exactly the same as thunderstorms, a New Zealand study of the effects of fireworks on over 1000 dogs with generalized “noise phobia” identified as many as 6% had been seriously injured at least once trying to escape. Many dogs went missing in the study after running away. 

If these symptoms describe your pet, find out what treatments are available so that you and your pet can weather the storm in part two. Coming soon!