Many veterinarians treat fear of thunder in dogs through powerful anti-anxiety medications. These medicines do not cure the dog, and they often don’t calm a dog terrified of thunder anyway. Another approach is to have your dog wear a special coat designed to ease anxiety.
About the Fear
One of the most renowned veterinarians on the subject of thunderstorm phobia, according to “The Whole Dog Journal,” is Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Dodman believes dogs are afraid of thunderstorms either because of the static electricity thunderstorms create, which is painful to dogs, or because of the loud noises they produce.
One type of coat, or cape, which helps some dogs during a thunderstorm, uses a metal lining that helps prevent dogs from feeling the static charges from thunderstorms. A small study in 2010 of 23 participants, co-authored by Dodman, found that dogs who wore a metal-lined cape were less anxious during a thunderstorm. The results were too small to be statistically significant, but some dogs did respond well.
Another type of coat that helps some dogs get through thunderstorms easier uses a swaddling technique. This technique works in a similar way to swaddling an infant as a means to soothe her. When a dog wears a swaddling coat, the constant, but gentle, pressure can calm him. Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and an expert on sensory problems, recommended using a swaddling type of coat that uses pressure as a calming mechanism.
A similar type of coat to the swaddling one uses acupressure, a method of traditional Chinese medicine, similar to acupuncture. By using pressure to stimulate acupressure points, anxiety can be lessened. When a dog wears an acupressure coat over as much of his body as possible, gentle pressure is applied that can activate acupressure points. While the acupressure points are targeted, the dog can be calmed.
How to Wear
Let your dog see and try out a coat before a thunderstorm comes. You don’t want him to associate the coat with fear. Introduce the coat while your dog is in a calm, happy state. Let him wear it for a few minutes, then remove it. When a thunderstorm is coming, put the coat on your dog and give him a treat. You want your dog to associate the coat with good feelings.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.