As humans, we assume that we know how to handle our emotions during times of great stress. But what do we do when we have a dog that is afraid of storms, loud noises, or is generally anxious about everything? How to calm your dog during a thunderstorm, especially of the Texas variety, is no easy feat. Hands-on “touch” therapy, exercise, homeopathic supplements, and even short-term use of veterinary anti-anxiety meds may all prove helpful to ease the fears of frightened pets.
Hands-On Calming Therapies
Try putting gentle, continuous pressure on your pet to calm her. If your dog will allow it, try leaning gently on or against her without petting or stroking. If this is helping your pup, you’ll feel her muscles begin to relax. If instead she seems to grow more anxious, this isn’t a technique that will be helpful for her.
The Tellington TTouch™ is a specific massage technique developed by Linda Tellington-Jones, an animal behaviorist, that can help reduce tension and change your anxious pet’s behavior. The foundation of the TTouch™ method is based on circular movements of the fingers and hands all over your pet’s body. The intent of the TTouch™ is to activate the function of the cells and awaken cellular intelligence, allowing your furry companion to relax and loosen her muscles, instead of stiffening her body through fear and nervousness.
If your dog seems to respond well to pressure applied to her body, there are wraps available (Thundershirt™, AnxietyWrap™, and StormDefender™) that many pet owners and veterinarians find extremely helpful.
We’ve all heard that saying, “A tired dog is a good dog.” No doubt you know from your own experience that physical exercise is a great stress reliever, so include exercise in your pet’s daily routine. The morning is especially important for a dog that is going to be spending the day alone while you’re at work. Even during the hottest days of summer, there are indoor exercises you can do to stretch and strengthen your companion. Check with your vet about how much exercise is appropriate for your pet.
Consult your holistic veterinarian about homeopathic, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Bach Flower Remedies™ that could be helpful in alleviating your pet’s anxieties. Bach’s Rescue Remedy™, a combination of the essences of Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry Plum, Rock Rose and Clematis, is formulated to help relax and calm nervous animals during specific times of stress.
Calming nutraceuticals (non-specific biological therapies used to promote general well-being) herbs that can be of benefit include holy basil, l-theanine, rhodiola, ashwagandha, GABA, 5-HTP, and chamomile. The essential oil of lavender has also been proven to reduce a dog’s stress response. We recommend placing a few drops on your dog’s collar or bedding before a thunderstorm occurs. Additionally, you can diffuse the oil around your house for an overall calming effect.
If the hands-on and holistic therapies are not working, short-term use of veterinary prescribed medications may be necessary to care for your anxious pet. If a pet is too fearful or anxious, for instance, it’s hard to let the good experiences of massage and healing oil in completely, and medication can help with this. The most widely used are TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants) and SSRIs (selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors), which are long-term slow-acting anti-anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines are fast-acting anti-anxieties best used for situational distress such as thunderstorm phobias. Your vet can help you decide what seems the best course of treatment for your individual animal.
If your dog or cat has anxiety issues during thunderstorms, please let your VIP pet sitter know and they’ll make an extra special effort to calm them during their visits. We are here to help!