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Thunderstorm Phobias in Dogs

Canine thunderstorm anxiety represents a condition marked by an enduring and heightened fear of storms, or the elements linked to storms. This phobia presents a complex challenge and can be challenging to address as it encompasses physiological, emotional, and behavioral aspects. While thunderstorm phobia can affect both dogs and cats, dogs tend to be more prone to experiencing this specific type of fear.

Why Are Dogs Scared of Thunder?

The precise reason behind dogs’ fear of thunder remains uncertain, although it could stem from a blend of the following factors:

  • Insufficient exposure to storms during early developmental stages
  • Unintentional encouragement of the fear response by owners
  • Genetic inclination toward emotional reactivity, particularly noticeable in herding breeds

Dogs may respond to various storm-related stimuli, such as thunder sounds, decreasing barometric pressure, rain, lightning flashes, and electrical charges in the atmosphere.

What Are the Signs of Dog Storm Anxiety?

Signs of dog storm anxiety can manifest in various ways. Typical indicators of a thunderstorm phobia comprise:

  • Restless pacing
  • Increased panting
  • Trembling
  • Seeking refuge near the owner
  • Excessive drooling
  • Destructive behavior
  • Heightened vocalization
  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Incontinence


Diagnosing thunderstorm phobia in dogs involves a process of elimination by your veterinarian to rule out other potential causes of similar behavioral reactions, including separation anxiety, pain, and neurological issues. Further assessments may be required to confirm the dog’s overall health status before considering the administration of anti-anxiety medications, if deemed appropriate.

How Does Thunderstorm Anxiety Affect Your Dog Physically?

Thunderstorm anxiety in dogs can have significant physical effects on their bodies, including:

  • Cardiovascular: Elevated heart rate
  • Endocrine/metabolic: Increased levels of cortisol, stress-induced hyperglycemia
  • Gastrointestinal: Loss of appetite, gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Musculoskeletal: Injuries from attempts to escape
  • Respiratory: Rapid breathing
  • Skin: Acral lick dermatitis, a condition where chronic licking causes skin damage and potentially promotes a sense of calm through endorphin release

Severe thunderstorm phobia, especially in areas with frequent storms, can lead to chronic effects that diminish your dog’s quality of life. It may also increase the risk of immune dysfunction and susceptibility to infections. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most effective approach for managing your dog’s anxiety-related behaviors.

What Can You Do to Relieve Dog Storm Anxiety?

While most dogs cannot be completely cured of their thunderstorm phobias, it is possible to manage their condition. According to a study published in 2003, 30 out of 32 dogs experienced notable improvement in their symptoms with appropriate therapy.

Comfort Your Dog

Providing comfort to your dog during a storm is completely acceptable if your dog seeks it. Contrary to a common misconception, offering comfort won’t inadvertently reinforce your dog’s fear. Fear is a deep-seated response that cannot be changed by simple gestures such as petting or soothing words.

Create a Calming Environment

Establishing a calming environment can aid in helping your dog cope during a storm. Playing soothing music to mask the storm’s noise and providing your dog with a food puzzle or chew toy can help them redirect their focus. Anticipate upcoming events by monitoring the news for weather forecasts, allowing you to start calming your dog before the storm arrives.

Create a secure and tranquil space for your pet, such as a crate where they cannot harm themselves. Consider covering the crate with a blanket to reduce visual stimulation and dampen sounds. Additionally, you can lessen auditory stimuli by acclimating your dog to wearing headphones or using cotton balls in their ears.

Try a Dog Anxiety Vest

Consider using a dog anxiety vest, such as the ThunderShirt, to alleviate anxiety in fearful dogs. Before using it during a storm, give your dog sufficient time to get accustomed to the ThunderShirt. Introduce the garment gradually and use treats to create a positive association with it. For added comfort and mobility, the Thundercap can be paired with the Thundershirt, helping your dog move around comfortably while reducing unpleasant stimuli like flashing lights.

Surround Them With Dog-Appeasing Pheromones

Surround your dog with dog-appeasing pheromones for calming effects, such as those found in Adaptil diffusers, collars, and sprays.

Give Them Calming Supplements

Consider providing calming supplements to alleviate anxiety in dogs fearful of thunder or other storm-related stimuli. Nutritional products such as Nutramax Solliquin calming chews and VetriScience Composure behavioral health chews could be beneficial in soothing their nerves during such situations.

Ask Your Vet About Anti-Anxiety Medications and Behavioral Modification

Consult your veterinarian regarding the possibility of using anti-anxiety medications and implementing behavioral modifications for dogs experiencing severe storm phobias or those unresponsive to over-the-counter remedies. Your vet can suggest a tailored behavioral modification program to assist your dog in staying composed during thunderstorms. While your veterinarian has numerous prescription options available for treating thunderstorm phobia, it may be worthwhile to discuss Sileo, the first and only FDA-approved noise aversion treatment for dogs.

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