Explanations for dog and cat anxiety, and what to do to address the issue
Storm anxiety and phobia can be a real bother for our pets, and for their human families, too. Even when a you know full well that there’s no real threat to be feared from the storm, with the weather website giving robust assurances that it’ll all be over soon and that the rain will only be intense for a brief period of time, this meteorological information is cold comfort to a dog or a cat. You can try showing your pets the rain forecast if you want, but it is unlikely to help one jot with their storm fear.
Thankfully, you’re not helpless to help your dogs and cats with the negative feelings they experience during a storm. By deepening your understanding on the topic, you can find new and useful ways to help your pets. In this article, we’ll look at the major questions owners ask related to storm anxiety in animals, such as:
- What makes dogs and cats afraid of storms?
- Why do my pets get scared even before a storm arrives?
- Why are cats and dogs afraid of storms?
- My dog/cat didn't used to have storm anxiety: why have they developed it now?
- What can you do when your dog or cat is afraid of a storm?
- Are there any long term solutions for addressing storm anxiety?
Read on, and get to the bottom of what it is that is making your dog or cat anxious during a storm. Then, see if our team of experts can’t help you to improve the situation.
Are you concerned for your cats and dogs when it is raining cats and dogs? You’re not alone: many pets experience storm anxiety. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help your animals. For example, check out our online store, full of natural products that we are happy to endorse which can help pets who experience storm anxiety.
What are the signs that my dog or cat is afraid of storms?
While your cat and your dog cannot ‘literally’ tell you that they’re afraid of a storm, they can exhibit behaviours that convey a fear of a storm. For example, in both anxious cats and anxious dogs, you might notice identifiable symptoms such as:
- Aggressive or antisocial behaviours
- Vocal complaints like whining, crying, and in the case of dogs, barking
- Excessive licking of lips
- Hiding under the bed
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What causes dogs and cats to be afraid of storms?
Anxiety and fear of storms are very common among household pets like cats and dogs. It’s not hard to see why: some of the phenomena in the environment during storms can be pretty spooky. There can be haunting flashes of lightning at the window and drips of rain coming through the roof, not to mention that loud noises from hail, rain, and thunder can be startling — not just for dogs, but for many people. At the most basic level, the flashing lights and loud noises of a storm makes your cat or dog feel as though they’re in danger. This causes the body to fill with chemicals that are typical of a fear response, with adrenaline and a fight or flight impulse kinging in.
Why do my pets become afraid even before a storm arrives?
In addition to the external phenomena humans can see (rain, lightning, whooshing wind), there are also additional things that happen during storms that can frustrate pets. These are things that most humans don’t even have the capacity to notice. For example, dogs and cats can be more attuned to barometric pressure and the buildup of static electricity in the air. This is why our pets often become aware that a storm is coming before their human counterparts — the static electricity and barometric changes may occur before rain starts to fall. Dogs and cats can find changes in barometric pressure and static electricity build up physically uncomfortable, and this might make them agitated. Over time, they’ll also come to associate those feelings with apprehension that a storm is coming, and this can cause them to feel further distress and anxiety.
Why are dogs and cats so afraid of storms?
Most dogs and cats will express some unhappiness during a storm. However, some dogs and cats experience anxiety and fear on an entirely other level during inclement weather. If this becomes extreme enough, you might suspect that your dog or cat has actually developed a storm phobia.
Scratching your head, wondering ‘why are my dogs so afraid of storms’? There are a few reasons why a dog or a cat might have a storm phobia. For example, if they’ve had a particularly bad experience with a storm previously, they might find storms in the future to be ‘triggering’ — in the same way that they might not want to go back to a vet where they’ve had a particularly unpleasant experience, or see an animal or a person who has been mean or threatening to them.
There has been a change: why is my dog suddenly afraid of storms?
Storm phobia tends to get worse as a dog grows older. There are many examples of dogs developing more picky, moody and curmudgeonly as they age. In part, this is due to genetics and changes in the brain over time, and it is just one of the sad things about life.
Alternately, a dog or a cat might develop storm anxiety because of other anxieties in their life. Perhaps they used to get more time outdoors than they do at the moment, and they’re more generally in a bad mood. Perhaps somebody has gone out of the house, and this is causing separation anxiety, or perhaps somebody new has come into the house, causing all sorts of anxieties on that front.
No matter the reason, there are still many things you can do to make storms easier for your dog, and to help with their anxieties.
What to do when your dog is afraid of storms
During a storm, bring your pet inside before the storm starts, keep your pet in a darkened and enclosed room, don’t tie them up and give them any prescribed medication that will ensure your pet is prepared for the storm ahead.
A few things to consider for post-storm are checking your property for hazards so your pet can’t harm themselves, checking pets for injuries and if your pet goes missing checking local shelters and pounds.
You can do many additional things you can do if your dog or cat is afraid of storms. For example:
- Draw up a storm phobia management plan: You can do this in consultation with a vet or a pet behavioural expert. This will likely involve things like making a space in your house where your dog and cat can feel safe, and working on behavioural changes so that they can cope with storm anxiety more adequately.
- Ensure that your dog and cat are microchipped, tagged and easy to identify: If something goes wrong and they escape your property during a storm, taking these steps will give you the best likelihood of finding them again in a speedy manner.
- Prepare an emergency kit: You’ll want to gather together things like medications/treatments, food and water, toys/blankets/treats and a first aid kit. Basically, you want to be prepared to calm your dog or cat down with some of their favourite things, be able to treat them if the anxiety becomes very bad, and have the supplies you’ll need if something goes wrong and they become injured (for example, if they’re thrashing about in a panic and hurt themselves.
There are also many products that can help with storm anxiety. We’ve even put together a guide to navigate the right storm anxiety products for dogs, so that you can help to calm your pet down naturally at those difficult times.
Hopefully, you’ve now got a better understanding of what causes storm anxiety in cats and dogs, and you also feel better prepared for helping your pets through a difficult time in the wet. Here at Bondi Vet we also have many other resources for helping anxious pets, including a guide to calming dog anxiety naturally and an in-depth guide to the physical signs and symptoms that your dog is suffering from anxiety.