With summer thunderstorm season in full effect, many dog owners are witnessing signs of anxiety and distress in their companions. Brontophobia (fear of thunderstorms) affects many dogs and can be very upsetting. As the first claps of thunder begin, or even before in some cases, fear and anxiety set in. Many dogs will pace about the house frantically, while others will cling to their owners, whining and panting. Excessive salivation is another sign of anxiety that can kick in when dogs are nervous or fearful. Some dogs will slink around, body low to the ground, tail tucked, and some will tremble and shake, their entire body seeming to vibrate. As pet owners, it can be devastating to see the panic and anxiety in our canine friends caused by thunderstorms. When a dog is in such an extreme state of fear, often our attempts to console and calm them have little to no effect. When the forecast calls for thunderstorms owners of such dogs prepare for sleepless nights with their frantic and inconsolable pooches. Many resort to pharmacological approaches such as giving mild sedatives, but this can be challenging since timing is important and weather isn’t always predictable.
In the last few years, a new product has emerged on the scene to help. A Thundershirt is a snuggly fitting wrap that your dog can wear. It’s gentle, constant pressure has a dramatic calming effect on most dogs if they are anxious, fearful or over-excited.
Experts believe that pressure has a calming effect on the nervous system, and using pressure to relieve anxiety has been a common practice for several years. Tellington Touch is a massage technique used on dogs and horses to address a wide variety of anxieties. Veterinarians have used pressure to relax cattle when administering vaccinations. People with autism have long used pressure to relieve their persistent anxiety. Children with certain behavioral problems use pressure shirts and weighted vests to relax and focus, and parents use swaddling to calm inconsolable infants. When over two thousand dog owners were surveyed, results showed that 80% of dogs showed significant improvement in anxiety symptoms when using a Thundershirt.
For many anxieties, it’s recommended to simply put on a Thundershirt and observe the results – you’re likely to see significant improvement with no additional training. For complicated anxiety cases, Thundershirts are recommended as part of a behavior modification program that involves desensitization and counter-conditioning. While Thundershirts were named for their ability to calm dogs who experience thunderstorm anxiety, they have a number of other applications, including other noise sensitivities (like fireworks), travel anxiety, and separation anxiety. They can also be useful in managing excitability and hyperactivity with strangers, on the leash, or in a training environment, because the calming effect helps the dog to focus or refocus his or her energy in a more constructive direction, allowing training to be more effective. A few of our patients even come into the clinic wearing a Thundershirt if they’ll be boarding or staying for day long laboratory testing.
Now available on our Webstore!
We’ve been recommending Thundershirts for some time as a great solution to calming your anxious dog, and we’ve been so impressed with the feedback that we’ve started to carry them directly on our webstore. They are sized to fit all breeds. If this sounds like something that might be helpful for your pet, you can order one from our webstore here: Blue Cross Animal Hospital Webstore
–Written by the Andria G., Registered Veterinary Technician at Blue Cross Animal Hospital