Thunderstorm issues…help!

We adopted Kiya at the end of October. Since the winter isn't really thunderstorm season in Wisconsin we didn't know how she would respond to thunderstorms. We did have had a few rumbles and light thunder-snow storms over the last several months but not the typical loud and sudden cracks of thunder - until yesterday.

Not only did I have my almost 2 year old son climbing up me at every crack of thunder but Kiya was also trying to climb up me. I thought maybe she was just feeding off of his fear but later in a day another storm came through, my son was at the store with my husband, and Kiya again was trying to climb up me whimpering and crying out with every crack of thunder.

I did everything I could to calm her down. I even put on some mellow music in hopes to drown out the sound of the thunder. I did get her to finally stop crying by laying in bed and having her crawl under the covers and curl up tight against me. I watched TV while I massaged the pressure points on her ears and she stopped crying and wasn't shaking as badly as before.

I can't give her some of the herbal calming remedies because she is on Prozac and the drug interactions that could be harmful.

Is there anything else I can do to help her calm down during thunderstorms?

Side Note: I simply want to clarify and explain our reasons for giving our dog Prozac. - I know that giving Prozac and such meds can be controversial with some pet lovers. Kiya is on meds for extreme anxiety, fear, and trust issues stemming from the physical and verbal abuse she lived with from 6 weeks old until she was 16 weeks old when we adopted her and removed her from that environment. We have met with numerous behaviorists regarding these issues. Every one of the behaviorists and our vet agreed that Prozac right now would be the best thing to help her in addition to positive training and counter-conditioning. Basically we are just adding another tool in our arsenal to help her get over her anxiety, fear, and trust issues. Sorry if I am coming across as defensive, but as you can imagine I have had to more than once explain our decision to medicate and deal with the criticism, so I thought I would just throw this out there right away and get it out of the way. 😃

Poor Kiya 😞
Thunderstorms can really scare a dog. I used to have a Doberman and anytime there was a thunderstorm Sheeba would go insane. One time we left her outside and she clawed right through the screen door just to get inside. It was awful!
I am aware of the fact that mixing herbal remedys with Prozac could have an adverse affect. Especially anything with Feverfew.
You may want to consider Lavender. Lavender has a calming effect and can help in stressful situations. One thing I like to do is make a warm lavender wrap. You can use lavender oil which you can purchase at the healthfood store. Take a warm washcloth and apply a few drops into the towel and pet Kiya with it. It will help relax her. You can also put a few drops of lavender in cotton balls and stick it under her bedding. Just allowing her to breathe it will help 🙂
I hope this helps and good luck.

Some people say you shouldn't "buy into" their anxiety, but it is hard not to cuddle and try and calm them. That reinforces their idea that something bad is going on!
I wonder if trying some positive conditioning on pretty days, like sudden noise, dropping pots or something, followed by laughing and treats, lots of noise and having a good time. Tell her kindly that she is a silly girl and you are in charge and noise won't hurt her. Start small, of course and desensitize her to noise and hopefully eventually thunder.
That's just something I remember another person posting years ago, I have not had the experience personally.

Another idea, look up 'anxiety wrap'. I have heard from at least 2 people that this works, and you can do the same thing with ACE wrap, wound snugly (but not tight) around the torso and chest.

Anne

@MacPack:

Another idea, look up 'anxiety wrap'. I have heard from at least 2 people that this works, and you can do the same thing with ACE wrap, wound snugly (but not tight) around the torso and chest.

Anne

I have heard of people having good luck with this too. And I agree, try to keep the mood really light, and say 'oh, look, how exciting, a thunderstorm'…This is what we did with our son, and so far, so good. None of our dogs are really effected by thunder, though...so I don't have a lot of experience with that.

You could see if she would take some treats as soon as you expect a Tstorm is building...and then keep treating her sporadically thru the storm. The fact that she was able to relax when you lay down is really encouraging.

Mica has not been a fan of thunderstorms. In the beginning she would really get upset about the noise. Usually they happen in the late hours of night. So whenever there is a thunderstorm, I coax her to cuddle next to me, and I rub her neck and talk to her and she has become calmer. On occasion she will yowl real loud when a really loud crack of thunder breaks the sky, but she has become considerably better on this matter. I also give her small treats to calm her, which means keeping a stash of treats near the bed when the thunderstorms play.
baMicas mom

Lucky that we have very few thunderstorms here in No. Ca…. (like maybe one a year) and they have never bothered the Basenjis (nor to fireworks or earthquakes)... but I have know dogs with panic to fireworks (not a lot different then thunderstorms) and also have always been told not to baby them ... or to play into their fears....

I, too, have heard not to "coddle" them when they're anxious. Although I understand the thinking behind it (that "coddling" gives the dog the idea that there is something to be anxious about), I don't know that I buy into not giving comfort in this situation.

Giving comfort is a big part of a mom's job. Yes, I know they're dogs. Yes, I know they're different than humans. But when a creature, any creature, is trembling with anxiety, I can't help but try to calm them with gentle touches and soothing noises. I can't just ignore their discomfort. I see it more as reassurance than coddling.

However, I've never had a dog that was anxious about thunderstorms, so I've never had to comfort anyone except my human son during them–here in Minnesota, we get plenty. He eventually grew out of the fear. I, myself, love thunderstorms.

I don't know (and haven't looked, as yet) about any studies about this and wonder how the "no coddling during thunderstorms" rule came about. Anyone have any ideas?

JMHO, of course.

I used to pet sit for a Jack Russell that was seriously afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks and would shake terribly. When I took care of him for a whole summer one year, I had a "safe" place set up for him in the back of my walk in closet…it was a place that he could go that was well lit, quiet, and away from the noise, but was cozy, with a bed, water and had a bunch of his toys. If I was home and there was a thunderstorm, he would go to his bed in the closet, and I just let him be. He'd come out after the storm and he'd be wagging his tail, so for him I think it was a decent option. After I set up his safe place at my house, his owner set up something similar and also thought it seemed to be a good option.

There is some debate about the coddling with fear issues in dogs. The con argument being that you are reinforcing their fear by petting, praising, etc. The pro argument being that you are providing a calming, quiet, supportive environment by coddling. I have no idea which argument is correct. My hunch is that if you are calm, and supportive without being nervous yourself, you will convey that to the dog. If you are nervous either about the storm, or the dog's behavior, and you convey that to the dog, you will increase/reinforce the behavior.

I like the idea of just lying quietly somewhere, either the bed, or couch and being availabe to offer comfort if that is what the dog wants.

I had a cat that used to get terrified during thunderstorms and would run and hide for even hours afterward. So I started with blocking all her hiding spots and closing all doors. She'd then hide under the coffee table, then I started to pull her out and feed her treats and have her do her tricks (yes my cat does tricks) after about 5-6 good storms she was fine and would maybe cringe a little during them bout didn't hide anymore

@basenji_fan:

I had a cat that used to get terrified during thunderstorms and would run and hide for even hours afterward. So I started with blocking all her hiding spots and closing all doors. She'd then hide under the coffee table, then I started to pull her out and feed her treats and have her do her tricks (yes my cat does tricks) after about 5-6 good storms she was fine and would maybe cringe a little during them bout didn't hide anymore

Out of curiosity, why not let her hide?

@Quercus:

Out of curiosity, why not let her hide?

I was wondering the same thing…should I have not set up a safe place for Apatche instead of trying to make him overcome his fear?

I heard this on TV (a vet on the martha stewart show) and have never tried it, and dont really think i believe it will work, but he said something like 40% or 60% (i forget, but he said it works with some dogs) of dogs will not fear thunderstorms if you wipe down their body with unscented dryer sheets.. He said a lot of dogs shake and cry because the static electricity build up, from the storm, in their coats, and if you wipe them with the dryer sheets when you know a storm is coming, it will help them?? Anyone ever heard this or tried it?!

I have never heard of that, but our dogs do start acting funny before the storm hits usually. I figured it was a barometric pressue thing.

Jack has never been afraid of thunderstorms, and I almost think he likes them. I wonder if it is because DH is a drummer, so he is used to hearing loud noises like that, and also, because he listens to a lot of heavy metal. I wonder if him having grown up listening to loud sound like these have helped him get over the noise of thunder.

If that is true, it might help, as someone else suggested, to make some noise when there isn't a storm, followed by treats and loving….so she understands, the noise won't hurt you...

Yeah, I agree that 'support' and providing a feeling of safety, or safe den, is very different from "making a big deal" out of their fears, that would be like reinforcement of the behavior. I would not be abel to see one really afraid without trying to do everything I could to help!

Anne

@Quercus:

Out of curiosity, why not let her hide?

She's stay hiden for days sometimes, and wouldn't come out to eat or use the litter box (she'd just hold it), and not eating or pottying is really not good for cats

@basenji_fan:

She's stay hiden for days sometimes, and wouldn't come out to eat or use the litter box (she'd just hold it), and not eating or pottying is really not good for cats

I see, yes, it is important for them to eat and eliminate, for sure.

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