Category Archives: thunderstorm anxiety

Do Dogs Get Scared, and What Scares Them?

By Linda Cole

We think of our dogs as being fearless in their protection of us if an intruder were to ever enter our homes. Most dogs will protect their property, but dogs are like us when it comes to things they’re afraid of. Dog behavior can be hard to figure out, but we can understand when dogs get scared, even though we don’t know why some things scare them.

Thunder is a sound a lot of dogs and cats are scared of. I know a big boom certainly gets my attention. A normally happy dog can show different levels of dog aggression when they become nervous because of loud, sudden sounds. Some dogs have issues with separation anxiety or they may be afraid of another dog in the home or even a neighbor’s dog. And sometimes the big bad scary thing is a cat that intimidates the dog.

Dogs get scared by things that are unfamiliar or confusing to them. Wild animals that wander into their yard can make a dog nervous. I’ve always enjoyed sitting outside at night with my dogs in their dog pen. One night about ten years ago, we had an expected visitor who scared all of my dogs so much it gave me goose bumps, and still does to this day. We were sitting outside on a beautiful night with the moon shining down on the freshly fallen snow. The town clock had chimed midnight and all was quiet. The dogs were wandering around the pen when suddenly they all huddled around me. None of them uttered a sound. I didn’t think anything of it until I saw what scared them – a coyote had quietly stolen up on the other side of the pen and was watching us. He was a beautiful animal, but I quickly decided it was time to go inside. I still sit outside at night with my dogs, but I always bring a good flashlight and pay attention if they huddle around me suddenly.

Dogs get scared by all kinds of things we take for granted. Last winter a dog was found wandering around the parking lot of a local restaurant. When the manager couldn’t find her owner, he asked if we’d take her. She’d apparently been lost for quite awhile and was extremely skinny. She’s doing fine weight wise, but this dog is scared of going up and down stairs and going outside at night. When we started turning on the ceiling fan in the living room and kitchen, she’d sit in a corner never taking her eyes off that spinning monster above her. She doesn’t like thunderstorms, sudden movements, loud noises, flashlights or all the little noises cats and animals make outside as they roam around in the dark. A breaking stick can send her tearing back inside with her tail between her legs. We can only guess what she went through as a lost dog. She is making good progress though, one scary thing at a time.

It can be challenging when dogs get scared. Some can become aggressive or develop behavioral problems related to whatever it is that scares them. Most dogs are happy, carefree pets who eagerly wait for us to return home and take them out for a game of catch or a walk. But we all have things that scare us, even though we may not admit it. If something scares a dog, they do remember it. I know the dogs I had at the time of our brief encounter with the coyote remembered the smell that scared them enough to huddle beside me. I don’t know if I was supposed to protect them or if they were trying to protect me.

Dogs get scared of the vacuum cleaner roaring across the living room carpet, snakes hidden in tall grass, a trip to the vet, and getting their toenails clipped. Some dogs get scared riding in a car, being yelled at, and being around unfamiliar dogs or people. Fear is a normal response to something that isn’t understood and there’s a difference between a fearful dog and one who is scared by something that confused him and caused his reaction. However, dog aggression can result from both. For most dogs who get scared, once whatever it was that scared them is gone, they will return to normal.

Most of the time when dogs get scared, their fear will pass, but it’s up to us as responsible pet owners to recognize if it’s nothing to worry about or if it’s something we need to help them understand.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Is it Separation Anxiety, or Something Else?

By Linda Cole

We all know what separation anxiety is. A dog just can’t stand being away from the people he loves. Left alone, the dog might whine, howl or bark all day which isn’t good if you live in an apartment. He may also destroy things in the home or scratch up the doors and windows. He gets all worked up and so do the neighbors. But, there could be something else going on that has nothing to do with a dog missing his owner.

Separation anxiety has become a sort of catch-all for behavioral problems. But it could also be boredom or a disease. No one knows why some dogs seem to miss their owner more than others. Some become anxious even with the owner at home but in a different room. Destructive chewing, howling or constant barking, drooling and doing their business inside are all symptoms of separation anxiety. Some dogs become so worked up they chew on themselves, causing self inflicted injuries. A mild case can be dealt with easily whereas a more severe case may require medication and/or working with an animal behavioral expert to help solve the dog’s anxiety.

A bored pet can be as destructive as one who misses his owner, but the two problems are quite different. Boredom can be solved with exercise before you leave the house and chew toys stuffed with dog treats. But before you can solve the mystery of whether your dog is destroying your couch because he’s bored or because he’s experiencing separation anxiety, you need to determine which problem you are dealing with. Discussing the issue with your vet can help.

There are medical reasons why your dog may be exhibiting what appears to be separation anxiety. Cushing’s disease, seizures, diabetes, renal disease, gastrointestinal problems or cystitis could be the problem. A fear of thunderstorms that increases when you are gone can upset some dogs enough that they howl or chew to help relieve their fear. Cognitive dysfunction, needing to go outside, marking their territory, a pup who is teething and not being completely housebroken can all be symptoms that you should have your dog checked out by a vet or an animal behaviorist, or spend extra time working on housebreaking and basic training.

Separation anxiety can begin at any age and for a variety of reasons. If you’ve moved into a new home, your dog may not feel as comfortable in his new surroundings. Separation anxiety can occur is you adopt a new dog who isn’t accustomed to you, their new environment or a new routine. It might manifest if your work schedule changes and you don’t have as much time to spend exercising and playing with your dog.

Other causes of separation anxiety include: a new baby in the home; new people living in your home; other changes in your living arrangements; a death in the family which can be a human or another pet. Separation anxiety might occur if your dog had an extended stay in a kennel or at the vet, or if you’ve adopted a new puppy or kitten. Your dog needs to know he hasn’t lost your love, so any time there’s a change, it’s important to reassure him he’s still your buddy. Dogs feel most comfortable and secure when their routine is maintained from day to day. Before making changes that are in your control, talk to your vet for recommendations on how to best implement the change so your dog doesn’t feel threatened. Changes you can’t control, like a death, may need to be dealt with by an expert if your dog continues to grieve.

Don’t assume your dog has separation anxiety just because it’s an easy explanation for why your dog is misbehaving. Any of the diseases mentioned above, boredom or lack of proper training could be the culprit. If you’re thinking about using a crate to help keep your dog from destroying the house while you’re gone, discuss your intentions with your vet before doing so. A dog with separation anxiety should never be put in a crate. It will only cause him more stress to be confined in a small area.

The more we learn about dogs, the more we understand how intertwined our lives are. Separation anxiety can be dealt with as long as that’s the problem. It’s always a good idea to have your vet give your dog a checkup just to make sure it’s separation anxiety and not something else.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Do Pets Like Listening to Music?

By Linda Cole

Music is an important part of our lives. We listen to a wide variety of tunes both in the home and away. I know Mozart or Brahms works great for a pet that is afraid of thunderstorms, but what about all those other times when we have the radio or stereo blaring with our favorite music? Does it upset our pets or do they like listening to the music we play?

My mom had a dog who loved singing along with certain commercials on TV. He even had a favorite one. Every time he heard it, he would race into the living room and sit in front of the TV so he could sing to his heart’s content. He was also afraid of thunderstorms, and the 4th of July was no picnic for him. Mom decided to tape his favorite commercial along with a variety of others he liked and started playing them during thunderstorms to help relax him. We discovered he had a particular musician that he seemed to like and those songs were added to his special tape. Thunderstorms and fireworks still made him uncomfortable, but listening to his favorite music made both bearable.

Pets do seem to like listening to music, as long as it’s non-threatening to them. If we keep the volume down, most pets enjoy listening to a soft mellow tune. Some even enjoy songs with a lively beat. Music can be a great therapy option for pets who are fearful. Classical music works the best as long as it’s calm with no sudden crescendos or loud, rapid beating of drums in the background. Heavy metal gets a paws down from pets, because this type of music hurts their ears and is upsetting to them. Most pets will leave a room if the music is too loud and irritating to their ears.

Animal shelters are discovering how well pets like listening to music and have started playing soft tunes in their kennels to help dogs and cats relax. The music helps pets by reducing their anxiety and puts them in a more relaxed state of mind. Fearful dogs or cats are more likely to allow shelter workers to pet them when music is playing in the background. Veterinarians are learning that music can have a positive effect on pets after surgery while they are recuperating.

If you have a dog or cat who has separation anxiety, is fearful or afraid of thunderstorms or spends their day barking at everything they see from their perch in front of a window, try leaving a radio on and tuned to a classical station while you are away. The volume doesn’t need to be turned up so the music can be heard everywhere in the house. That way, if the pet doesn’t feel like listening to music, they can go to another room to get away from it. Many pet stores carry recordings made specifically for pets with tunes that are relaxing and pleasing to any dog or cat who likes to listen to music.

Music has a way of calming us down after a stressful day at work or a day shopping at the mall. It works much the same way on our pets. They can be just as stressed out by all the commotion going on in our lives as we are. Because they hear at a higher frequency than we do, all the noise we hear is amplified in the ears of our pets. Households may have one or more TVs on, with kids playing video games that have sounds of things crashing, things being blown up and sirens blaring. Let’s face it – most video games are not quiet. Pets can go from one room to another only to find loud noises that can upset them more than we realize.

Not all pets like listening to music, though. Some seem to ignore it completely while others swish their tail back and forth as if they are searching for the beat. Some pets do have a preference when it comes to certain musicians or types of music. I listen to a wide variety of music and prefer something that is soft and mellow. My pets do seem to have their favorites as long as I don’t have the volume cranked up so the neighbors can hear it, which also makes my neighbors happy. You can’t go wrong with good music, relaxed dogs and happy neighbors.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Handling Thunderstorm Anxiety in Pets

By Linda Cole

A thunderstorm is a natural weather condition that produces cracks of thunder which can shake a house to the core. A fearful pet will scamper under the bed before the thunder has finished echoing across the sky. Thunderstorm anxiety in pets is real, and can be a traumatic experience. Although thunderstorms occur most often in spring and summer, they can happen in fall and winter, too. A rare weather phenomenon called thundersnow can occur in late winter or early spring, producing loud claps of thunder and usually heavy snow. So pets with a fear of storms can be affected by thunderstorm activity all year long.

While many dogs and cats are carefree animals that never give a passing storm the time of day, others become anxious before a thunderstorm darkens the skies. Dogs seem to experience thunderstorm anxiety more often than cats, but cats can have a fear of storms as well.

My rescued German Shepard/Collie mix trembles when a thunderstorm is in our area. She wraps herself around me as tight as she can get and shakes from head to toe until the thunderstorm drifts away. If we are outside and she hears thunder in the distance, she’s inside in a flash and refuses to come back out. Her eyes are wide as she listens for the next thunder boom. Thankfully, she isn’t aggressive. In severe cases of thunderstorm anxiety in pets, dogs have jumped through windows injuring themselves or someone in the family, and some do become aggressive.

There is evidence animals have an ability to predict the weather using their sense of smell and hearing as well as having an awareness of detecting changes in atmospheric pressure. Because of this sixth sense, our pets usually know a thunderstorm is approaching long before we do. Pets that are fearful of storms may pace, shake, drool, whine, bark, pant, hide or even run away from home as soon as they sense a storm brewing.

An Internet survey of dog owners suggests that herding dogs and hounds tend to suffer from thunderstorm anxiety more than other breeds. Rescued or shelter dogs are also more apt to be fearful of storms. It’s possible that puppies or kittens can sense our uneasiness which reinforces their fear. So a pet’s fear of thunderstorms could be something they learn at a young age, or is a fear developed from uncaring owners who may have mistreated them or left them on their own for a period of time. Regardless of how or when thunderstorm anxiety in pets develops, there are things you can do to help ease your pet’s fear.

Thunderstorm anxiety in pets has different levels of fear that can go all the way to phobia. Most pets can be kept calm in a safe place where they feel comfortable, such as a crate (kennel) they sleep in or a well lit cozy room in the basement away from a storm’s fury. Most cats never get to the phobia stage and will simply hide in a spot they feel comfortable in until the storm moves on. Try not to cuddle or reassure your pet that everything is alright because this rewards the fearful behavior. However, that’s easier said than done.

If thunderstorm anxiety in pets isn’t severe, you can try to desensitize your dog or cat by playing a recording of a thunderstorm starting off with a storm in the distance and gradually coming closer. Have plenty of treats on hand to reward your pet only as long as he remains calm. The idea is to condition him with treats for good behavior so he learns to ignore the storm through positive reinforcement. If your pet becomes anxious as the fake storm grows louder, ignore his behavior, do not give him a treat and reduce the sound until he calms down. You have to be careful with this technique, because if you move too fast or don’t notice your pet’s fear increase, it can make things worse. Make sure you know what you are doing if you try to desensitize your pet.

Music has been used successfully in treating thunderstorm anxiety in pets. Cats and dogs love classical music, but stick to a nice Brahms or Mozart – something relaxing and calm.

Natural remedies may be able to help, but it would be best to discuss the use of any medications, natural or prescription, with your vet first. A vet can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressants if necessary.

Thunderstorm anxiety in pets can range from mild to severe. If your pet becomes aggressive, his fear grows into panic, you are afraid he may hurt himself or someone else or has injured himself, then it’s time to discuss options with your veterinarian who can help you help your pet the next time a thunderstorm pops up overhead.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.