We adopted a big, beautiful, white German shepherd/Borzoi mix from the SPCA last October and she is the best dog in the world. However, whenever there is thunder I end up with a 98-pound leg attachment. Is there anything that can be done for a dog that scared of thunder … and fireworks? Randall Durham, Largo
People aren't the only ones anxious when lightning flashes and thunder crashes. Our canine companions, with their extra sensitive hearing and awareness, can become edgy also — or worse. Florida is thunderstorm central, so summer showers can make life tough.
To learn more, I talked to Donna Bainter, the animal behavior specialist at the SPCA Tampa Bay.
Are some dogs more susceptible to noise-related anxieties than others?
Any dog at any age can develop anxieties about thunderstorms or other noises. Fortunately, most affected dogs are just a bit more clingy or whine and pant a little. A few react extremely and may be destructive to things or themselves. Felines tend not to be as frantic. Rather, they find a safe place to hide.
Canine auditory sensitivity is 10 times that of humans. In addition, some dogs feel static electricity caused by pressure changes as the storm builds. Dogs can find relief by "grounding" in the bathtub or by a pipe.
What can the owner do?
React the way you want your pet to react! Dogs pick up our visual cues far better than we realize. Resist pampering your panicked pet. Distract with happy activities. Never punish. Provide access to a safe place such as a crate, an open closet or the bathroom. Close the blinds and play soft music to create a relaxing environment.
Discuss your dog's storm anxiety with your vet to ensure there is not a medical ailment causing this stress. Veterinarians may suggest anti-anxiety medications, even natural remedies to help the pet cope.
For July 4th?
Like New Year's Eve, fireworks start early. Keep your pets indoors. Go outside with them; use secure collars and leashes. Have your dog microchipped and all IDs current. If the worst happens, your pet has a much better chance to return home.
And for more help?
Talk with your veterinarian. And Call the SPCA Behavior Help Line: (727) 586-3591, ext. 133.
Paulette Keller is longtime SPCA Tampa Bay volunteer. Ask the SPCA is a monthly feature. SPCA volunteer Paulette Keller answers your pet-related questions. To send a question to Ask the SPCA, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to 710 Court Street, Clearwater, FL, 33756. If you include a photo of your pet, we will use it if space allows. Photos cannot be returned.