There are many natural things to try to help with thunderstorm phobia. Each dog is an individual, so what works for one, doesn’t always work for another. You just have to try them. I’ve found that many like to go in the bathtub. So I put a bed in there. I put lavender oil in a diffuser to help calm. I’ve tried the oils & spritzers Greyhound Gang offers with some success. Azmira makes a natural tincture – Fear, which can help. Here are other suggestions.
Hazy, Lazy, Crazy days of Summer…
With summer here, many pet owners are faced with animals that become extremely distressed or even completely panic stricken during a thunderstorm. Many animals show signs of stress long before the storm actually arrives. How do they know a storm is coming? One theory is that animals can sense subtle changes in atmosphere, barometric pressure before we can measure such changes. By whatever mechanism they are able to sense a storm coming, many pets virtually freak out and can cause harm to themselves or their surroundings.
Some dogs will show signs of stress such as panting and pacing. Others may do this as well as trying to hide behind objects or under the bed. Some dogs will select the bathroom, in the tub, behind the toilet or under the sink for their “hiding” spot. Why the bathroom? It maybe because the dogs are trying to “ground” themselves and these objects offer dogs a grounding mechanism.
Some dogs will even go to the extent of trying to escape out of the house, crashing through windows or digging at the door.
Many vets prescribe tranquilizers, as this “knocks the dog out” during the duration of the storm. Tranquilizers may actually be needed for the more extreme thunderstorm phobic dogs as they can do harm to themselves in their frenzy. Dogs who are extremely thunderstorm phobic should always be monitored to prevent them from injuring themselves.
Herbal therapies offer some help for mild to moderate thunderstorm phobic animals. There are a myriad of herbs that help promote relaxation…some are familiar, such as chamomile and hops. Traditionally, valerian and skullcap are used to help promote relaxation. St. Johnswort and Kava Kava are also employed for anxiety prone individuals. However, St. Johnswort works on more of a cumulative effect rather than a quick herbal first aide. In my experience, valerian and skullcap offer fairly quick and reliable results. Capsules are available but need to be digested first to work. A quicker way to administer a “first aide” to an animal is in tincture form (liquid extract). Herbal remedies work by dosing the individual with a quantifiable dose of active ingredients that produce the desired effect.
Some people also report good results with flower essences such as “Rescue Remedy.” Flower essences work on a “spiritual level.” Homeopathic preparations are also available, working on an “energy” level of like curing like.
Aromatherapy can also be employed to help calm the individual. You can prepare a combination a few drops of lavender essential oil with at least 4 oz. water in an atomizer. Spray this into the air during stressful times; lavender is used in aromatherapy for peace and relaxation. You can also make an herbal aromatherapy bandana collar for your animal companion by combining equal parts of dried or fresh lavender and chamomile, rolling this combination up in the bandana and tying the bandana loosely around your pet’s neck.
Herbs for Animals offers an herbal tincture,”Calm Down”, which contains Valerian, Skullcap, Passion Flower and Cramp Bark. These herbs have traditionally been used to relieve anxiety and promote relaxation. The best way to administer tinctures is hidden in a tasty treat or directly into the mouth. This formula should be given at the first sign of distressed behavior. It can also be used with nervous or jittery dogs that are car-ride phobic. One hour prior to the car-ride, the tincture should be administered, and re-dosed about 15 minutes before actual departure. There is no need for concern about “overdosing” as it does not sedate the animal, but seems to give them a sense of peace.
Lisa Walk, Herbs for Animals, LLC – Canine Massage & Herbal Therapies
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2003 18:59:24 EDT
From: Suzanne Stack DVM <Yumadons@AOL.COM>
Subject: MEDICAL: Thunderstorm phobia
Two simple nonprescription things you can try are 3 mg melatonin nightly (can go twice daily if needed) and rubbing her down with Bounce dryer sheets (to reduce static electricity). If she hasn’t already found it on her own, see if she prefers to stand in the bathtub – it’s a good ground and they get shocked less. Before I found Melatonin, I could always tell if we had any weather overnite cuz there would be paw prints in the tub the next am. Melatonin is the “natural” sleep aid you can buy in the vitamin section of Walmart. Supposed to trick your body into thinking it’s time to sleep. Can also help thunderstorm dogs – one of mine has had a good response to it. The beauty of melatonin is you can and should freely pass it out every nite during the season – you don’t have to ration it like you would a “real drug.” If you need something more, try one to two .5 mg alprazolam (Xanax) tabs. Xanax works best if you give it the minute you know it might be stormy – doesn’t do a whole lot once they’re already in a frenzy. Acepromazine tranquilizer 10 or 12.5 mg (half of a 25 mg tab) can also be tried but it takes longer to kick in and like Xanax, doesn’t help too much once they’re already worked up.
Tom Critzer, an electrical engineer in Ohio has patented a “Storm Defender” cape (www.stormdefender.com) for thunderstorm phobic dogs. The “cape” is a lightweight dog coat that is metallic on the inside. It discharges the dog’s fur so that thunderstorms are no longer a “hair raising” experience. You can read about the role of static charge in thunderstorm phobia in Dr. Nicholas Dodman’s Dogs Behaving Badly. After wearing the cape a time or two, the dog learns that rain, thunder, lightning, and changes in barometric pressure are no longer associated with scary events such as a tree falling on the neighbor’s house – or worse.
The inventor hand wrote me a note (10/03), saying that he is up to 200 capes sold with only one failure. The cape is for indoor use only and should be put on at the first sign of agitation. There is a bit of a learning curve involved, so the dog is not to be drugged, even with herbs, while wearing the cape – a drugged dog can’t learn. Most dogs just lay down once the cape is put on and some will even come looking for their owners to put their cape on when they feel the “bad vibes.” Mr. Critzer recommends to just put the cape on and leave it at that, do not reward the dog for inappropriate attention seeking. The capes are $65 and he guarantees your money back if it does not work after three good thunderstorms. If you buy one, please fill out and return his feedback form so that he knows how it’s working for you.
Fortunately or unfortunately, thunderstorm season in Arizona is over for the year so my Gumby won’t get to try his out until next summer. It did, however, work as advertised during a “solar flare” (an electrical atmospheric event) on October 29. Those lacking internet access may send inquiries to T.F. Critzer, P.O. Box 18598, Fairfield, Ohio 45018-0598.
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 22:18:24 +0800
From: “Diana Hayes” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: thunderstorms
Phosphorus 1M is one of the known main remedy given to dogs who fear- thunderstorms, fireworks and other loud noises. The other aspect of thunderstorms is that some storms have more electricity in the atmosphere, if your pet is more reactive to the atmosphere rather than, just loud noises, then combine the phosphorus with the homeopathic nosode electricity 1M.
The body wrap works well also.
Diana Hayes DiHom HATAA
Reg, Holistic Animal Practitioner
International 61 8 9444 7379 Australia Wide 1300 132966
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2006 11:10:22 -0500
From: Cindy Victor <cindyvictor@EARTHLINK.NET>
Subject: CHAT: Storm Capes
We purchased the Storm Defender cape for Minnie because it worked so well for a friend’s greyhound. It didn’t help Minnie, though, so after she’d used it several times, we returned it. Our money was refunded with a letter wishing us luck in finding a way to keep Minnie comfortable during storms.
Next, I tried Melatonin. It did help, but not enough. I then talked with someone at Veterinary Products Laboratories (VPL), makers of Dog Appeasing Pheromone. She advised me to buy the D.A.P. spray, not the plug in, and to spray Minnie’s bedding, and perhaps a scarf that she would wear during a storm. You spray the bedding and/or scarf about ten minutes before the dog uses it, which allows the alcohol that the pheromone is released in to disappear. I spray two beds and a towel in our storm shelter (aka Mom’s walk-in closet). The towel is for her to hide her face under.
We still use the Melatonin, mostly because Minnie runs to me for her cream-cheese coated pill when she senses a storm coming. But the D.A.P. spray is what really does the trick. For Minnie Mouth of Minnesota, it’s a doGsend.
Leo: A Greyhound’s Tale
For some dogs, there can be a whole lot of shaking and drooling going on during the 4th of July celebrations. Every dog is an individual, so each dog’s reaction can be different to fireworks. From staying close to you, to pacing, whining, drooling, shaking, destruction, jumping at windows and even biting – all these can happen when dogs are fearful – and fireworks are the trigger. If you help your pets deal with their anxieties and fears, positive changes can occur. They look to you for help.
Close all windows, doors and drapes.
Turn on the TV or music. As loud as you can without terrifying the dog.
If your dog doesn’t like the TV or music loud, try soothing CDs – new age or classical.
If you have a basement, bring your dog down there, but stay with him or her.
Some dogs find a bathroom or closet feels safest – let me go there if they want, but do NOT close doors. If they choose a spot, let them stay there, and put their toys, blankets, bed – whatever is familiar and comfortable to them, near them.
Don’t coddle and reinforce the ‘fearful’ behavior. Certainly pet and reassure, but don’t go overboard. If your dog has found a spot, grab your computer or a book, and sit with him or her. You can talk to them in a reassuring, yet secure voice without reinforcing the ‘anxious’ behaviors.
Massage. If you know Tellington Touch, try that.
Distract. Sing, dance, throw toys, give treats. Try to take his or her mind off of what is causing the anxiety – in this case fireworks. If you can change the behavior (i.e. fireworks means I shake, to fireworks means I get attention and treats so they must not be so bad), then that can help modify the reaction.
Lavender Essential Oil – only therapeutic blends (not synthetic) can be applied directly to ears or other areas with less fur. Lavender is one of the essential oils for calming and serenity. I use it nightly to help me sleep. Greyhound Gang has misters and oils in Lavender and Peaceful.
There are many potential herbal, flower and homeopathic remedies which can help with anxieties in people and hounds. You may need to try different ones to see which work well for your dog and situation. If one doesn’t work, try another. They are not expensive, and they will not harm. I’ve found Azmira’s Fear Tincture to help in a variety of ‘noise’ anxieties, which is why Greyhound Gang now carries it.
Fear releases old fears and eliminates the likelihood of fear based reactions to thunder, noise, fireworks, people, situations like vet visits and more. Animals helped by this fast acting flower essence can also be shy, lack self confidence and are easily discouraged.
As we head into one of the noisiest weekends of the year, and thunderstorm season, here’s my personal testimonial. You can read testimonials from others on the web site. My dog, Clyde, was fine with fireworks until two years ago, at age seven. He now trembles and gets skittish when people set them off. I gave him the Fear Tincture,(started a few days before the 4th when I sensed the beginning of his anxiety, and during) and he was able to be on the bed without shaking and being wigged out.
This remedy acts to ‘filter’ the emotions and make the situation tolerable for pets and their people. The active ingredients in this formula are Aspen, Gentian, Larch, Mimulus, and Rock Rose.
If you choose an herbal therapy to try, valerian, skull cap, chamomile, passion flower are a few of the herbs which can be helpful. Usually these need to be administered enough in advance for them to get into a dog’s system and do some good. Liquid vs capsule form in this case will get a quicker result.
Melatonin can help sometimes. 3 mg nightly.
Homeopathic – Phosphorus.
ThunderShirts or Storm Shirts might also help, and wouldn’t hurt.
What NOT to do
Never punish a dog for being fearful.
Never force a dog to view the fireworks and get over it.
There are no quick fixes, but with your time and effort and the right modality you can modify a fearful behavior into something more tolerable for your dogs and you.