5 ways to help calm pets with storm anxiety

Pet expert reveals tips on how to settle your animal's nerves

Harley wearing a ThunderShirt to help with storm anxiety.
Harley wearing a ThunderShirt to help with storm anxiety.

Living in Florida, we're no strangers to the evening thunderstorms. But sometimes for our pets, it seems as though every storm is new to them. Whenever lightning strikes, you may catch your cat hiding in a closet, or your dog panting and shaking. After speaking with Dr. Amy Stone from the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, here are five ways you can keep your furry friend calm.

1. Anti-anxiety medication 

Stone first recommends speaking with your veterinarian if you notice your dog or cat becoming anxious during storms. She says your vet may also have some resources on ways to potentially desensitize your pet, since every animal is different depending on the circumstances.

2. Redirecting your animal's focus

You can do this through play, seeking, or feeding them food. One thing I try to do to distract my dog is play videos. Sometimes I search for videos that are meant for dogs, and mine seems to be mesmerized by watching the ones that show birds flying around.

3. Try out a ThunderShirt

There are ThunderShirts, capes, or some sort of jacket that may help your pet feel calm. According to ThunderShirt's website, they work because the "design applies a gentle, constant pressure on a dog's or cat's torso. Using pressure to relieve anxiety has been a common practice for years." It's very similar to swaddling a baby.

4. Spray pheromones

Stone says pheromones seem to work for some dogs and cats. She says they can be placed in collars, or sprayed onto bedding, or even used in diffusers. According to chewy.com, a website that sells pet supplies, "Pheromones are chemicals that are released from the body to invoke a behavioral or social stimulation. Scientists have been able to isolate dog appeasing pheromones (DAP) and create a synthetic version that can be used by pet parents to recreate the tranquilizing effect. For adult dogs, DAP can help to ease common anxieties, such as separation anxiety in dogs, sound aversions and anxieties associated with plane or car trips."

5. Find your pet a safe hiding place

Stone says you can also find a safe space for your animal to hide during a storm. For one of my co-workers, she says her cat likes to hide in the closet. My dog's "safe space" is the bed in my bedroom.

About the expert

Dr. Amy Stone is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. She also serves as chief of the UF Small Animal Hospital’s primary care and dentistry service. She received her D.V.M. degree from UF in 1999 and a Ph.D. degree in veterinary immunology in 2002.

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