As weather warnings, thunder and rain continue to hit the UK, vets are sharing their top tips for soothing petrified pets during storms, including top preparation tactics, thunderstorm parties and ear wraps.
Storms and loud noises can be a trigger for anxious pets, with 42% of pet owners saying that their furry friend experiences anxiety.
According to veterinary surgeon and medical writer, Lily Richards (Bsc Hons BVSc MRCVS), animals may suffer from noise phobias during thunder and anxiety during lightning, but they can also feel the electrostatic pressure changes when a storm is looming – meaning their senses are perfectly attuned to ‘scary’ weather conditions.
To prepare fur parents for storm season, experts at TrustedHousesitters have teamed up with vet, Lily Richards, revealing five expert tips for keeping pets calm.
- Throw a thunderstorm party
Often distractions are the best thing for nervous pets – so while a ‘party’ may seem unusual, it may be just what an anxious animal needs! Vet, Lily Richards, recommends:
“To offer a distraction to anxious pets, have a thunderstorm party. Close the curtains, put some music on, and play an epic round of tug or ball. It works perfectly with my Collie dog, who is barely aware of a storm occurring!”.
According to a TrustedHousesitters pet parenting study, background noise is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and anxiety in pets, with 34% of pet owners using the TV and another 34% playing music to help comfort their pets. However, most owners say offering their pets their favourite toy is the most effective way to relieve pet anxiety – 43% of owners claim this tactic works perfectly for them.
- Be prepared for storm seasons
When it comes to pet anxiety, preparation is key. Lily Richards says:
“Check the weather forecast to help you prepare if you have noise-phobic pets. Hold off walking dogs so you’re not caught out in a storm, especially with anxious pups who can bolt if startled. Keep cats inside, cover hutches or bring smaller animals like rabbits or guinea pigs inside in bad storms. You should also secure your home and garden to prevent your pets from escaping if they do get spooked.”
When a storm is imminent, Lily recommends:
“Prepare a safe, enclosed, dark space for pets to rest; include their favourite toys and blankets, and maybe even a puzzle feeder, for distraction. Always close your curtains or blinds to limit lightning flashes.”
- Understand when to give your pet space
It can be tempting to cuddle your pets when they’re feeling frightened, but it’s important to meet their needs. Some pets want attention, while others may want to hide. Lily explains: “Give your pet space to be stressed. There’s nothing worse than being fussed over when you’re anxious; it just breeds more anxiety. If your pet wants to pace, let them pace. Your pet will find a way of easing their own anxiety given the space to.”
- Consider natural remedies
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and stock up on thunder-masking essentials. What works may vary from pet to pet, so try a few different options to see what works for you. Lily suggests:
“Consider natural remedies such as rescue remedy, lavender oil, anxiety diffuser plug-ins or pet thundershirts/a tight-fitting t-shirt. Thundershirts act like blankets swaddling a baby, touching on pressure points to release endorphins and happy chemicals to help calm your pet.”
If you have a frightened pooch, it’s also important to remember that dog hearing is up to five times better than humans, which is why loud noises such as thunder can be so startling to them. Look into dog ear wraps, or snoods, which cover the dogs’ ears and help to muffle sounds.
- Distract with food
If you’re struggling with a nervous pet, turn to one of the best pet distractions – food! A third of pet owners say giving their pet treats helps relieve anxiety.
If your pet is showing signs of uneasiness during storms, try distracting them with treats, or by adjusting their meal schedule to eat during storms. CBD-infused treats are an excellent option for pets with severe anxiety, as they can help them remain calm and sleep during storms – with 18% of pet owners saying they find this remedy helpful.
Angela Laws, award-winning community manager of TrustedHousesitters and pet sitter with over 14 years of experience, said, “It can feel so heartbreaking to watch your pet experience distress and not know how to help them. With how much pets help us, it’s only fair for pet owners to learn how we can help them too.
“This is especially important if a storm is expected, and your pet may be without you. Share these tips with your pet sitter, prepare for storms with desensitisation techniques, and learn exactly what your pet needs to be the best owner you can be for them.”