Rainy days! Some weeks, it just feels as though we'll never see the sun again! For pets with severe thunderstorm phobia, living in the tropics can mean year-round stress and out-of-control behaviour triggered by fear.
Why are pets so afraid of the rain?
Just as many pets dislike having their bath, those animals that have been caught outdoors in the rain before, may remember that experience negatively and have learned to fear the wetness that rain brings.
Dogs and cats also have much better hearing than humans! Not only are their ears more sensitive, but the low frequencies that are part of a thunderclap are more audible to them - imagine if the thunder you hear was much more booming and loud! Not having the benefit of attending science lessons, this visceral rumbling probably strikes a deep fear in some animals as they don't know where it's coming from.
How can I help my pet?
Dogs have a natural instinct to hide in a den when frightened. You can create a safe spot for them to hide using an insulated box with one side removed to allow entry and ventilation. By padding the inside or outside of the box with sound-dampening materials such as heavy blankets or soundproofing foam, the environment inside this den may be less frightening to your dog.
When it's raining heavily, reducing the sensations associated with the storm will also help your pet to feel less frightened. Close the windows and draw curtains/blinds to minimise the perception of wind and lightning. This can also help block out the "smell" of rain.
For animals that feel comforted by being held or hugged when afraid, you can try using a ThunderShirt to give them a secure sensation of being hugged.
If your animal is very food motivated, you can try to offer them their favourite treats during the rain in order to create a more positive association with the storm event. If they are too frightened to eat during a storm, you can start by offering the treat immediately before the rain starts, when signs of impending rain appear.
Natural supplements such as Nutravet Nutrazyl and Vetquinol Zylkene are also available to help tone down the anxiety in stress-prone pets. ZumVet can tailor a supplement plan if you think your pet might benefit from these.
Lastly, for severe cases of phobia that leads to uncontrollable fear behaviour such as jumping on people, digging into flooring or uncontrollable barking, medical treatment may aid in the behavioural modification process. Consult with a veterinarian to obtain an assessment and prescription for anti-anxiety medications, to be used in conjunction with desensitisation training.