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Prepare for Storms

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  • 4 min read

Have a storm anxious pet?

This week has brought a lot of summer storms, with floods and landslides in the news. It can be scary as an adult human thinking about the potential consequences of a severe storm, and for some dogs or cats, it can be scary, too! Storms with flashes of light and deep cracking can be particularly distressing for pets, with sharper ears than ours (and also without the capacity to understand exactly what is going on). This blog is especially important for you if you have a pet that gets nervous during storms, but is useful for all pet parents who want to keep their pets safe during a storm. Even the bravest humans and animals need support sometimes! 

Before delving into specific safety measures, it's important to recognize that each pet may react differently to storms. While some pets may be unconcerned about raging storms (too busy sleeping maybe), others can experience heightened anxiety or fear. Signs of distress in pets during storms may include pacing, panting, trembling, cowering, hiding under furniture or in corners, howling or yowling, or desperately seeking attention from their pawrents or loved ones. Just like when they’re hungry, hurt or upset, ignoring the issue won’t make their fear or discomfort go away. Instead, understanding your pet’s reaction to storms and how to react accordingly is important to supporting your pet. 

If you know your pet gets anxious, shivers or cowers, providing them with a quiet, safe space can reduce their stress. A safe, comfortable haven that is familiar and full of stuff they need can make a huge difference for their emotional well-being. Somewhere far away from windows, close to loved ones, warm and perhaps with noise such as a fan or a tv to block out storms can reduce the impact of thunder and lightning. 

Introducing your pet to this space before a storm event and in other situations where they need to regulate emotionally such as a disagreement with another animal, new guests or after surgery can help to make the space feel safe and inviting when they’re not feeling well. You should also take your pet there and sit with them when a storm does come by, to help them associate that specific feeling of fear or discomfort with the calming space. You can also make it more inviting by incorporating their favorite toys, bedding, and treats, so they will retreat to this space.

The purpose of this space, aside from providing them with a safe, warm and quiet place to stay, is to distract your pet rom their concerns. Engaging your pet in activities can serve as distractions from the storm, such as playing with their favourite toys or providing them with a puzzle mat with their favourite treat. Better than their favourite toys or treats is your presence. Your calming presence can provide a sense of security for your pet, as well as pats or playing to distract them. A storm is the perfect excuse to curl up with your furbaby on a warm blanket and spend some quality time together. If pats and toys aren’t enough to distract your pet, if they’re very scared of storms and can’t be pulled away, there are other options and precautions you can take. For instance, storm jacket, vests or anxiety wraps (or lightly weighted blankets for larger dogs) can reduce the physiological reaction to anxiety. just  as weighted blankets or tight hugs work for humans, a healthy amount of pressure can soothe the nervous system and reduce shivering, crying and mental stress. Another important accessory for your anxious pet is a collar with ID. Even if your pet lives clothes-free most of the time, putting on a comfortable collar or harness with up to date ID during storms when there is a risk of elopement/ running away can ensure that they will stay safe. In the unfortunate event that your pet manages to escape during a storm, this simple measure can significantly increase the chances of a safe return. 

For the safety of both pets AND humans, and to reduce elopement concerns for pets and young children, ensure any potential hazards or escape routes are secure. Securing doors and windows to prevent escape, removing exposed wires that could pose a risk of electrical shock, and ensuring that toxic substances such as cleaning supplies are safely stored away will keep everyone safe. Even if your pet is well-behaved 99% of the time, high emotions and confusion can cause them to do irrational and out of character things, including running away, getting into cabinets, hiding around electrical wires and scratching at doors. While extra training and vet expertise can help address any undesirable behaviours during storms and hammer in life-saving behaviours and habits, it is still the most important to be an attentive, compassionate and present for an anxious pet.  

Storms, especially severe storms, can be frightening for anyone. Alongside normal storm precautions (including preparing safe drinking water, unplugging unnecessary cords and turning off power points, having an emergency kit and keeping important documentation safe and secure) following these steps can give your pet physical safety and pace of mind. Ultimately, your thoughtful care and attention can make all the difference in providing comfort and protection for your beloved pet.

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