Help for Thunder-Phobic Dogs
Reported June 2006
PHILADELPHIA (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Do thunderstorms make your dog tremble with fear with every rumble? Thunderstorm anxiety is common among dogs, sending frightened pooches shuddering under beds or even tearing up furniture. What's really behind this pet panic?
All it takes is one rumble from a thunderstorm and Patty Nordstrom's dog, Iko, is a nervous wreck.
"Iko starts shaking and panting and pacing and is very nervous and upset," Nordstrom says. Many sympathetic owners like her try comforting pooches with thunderstorm anxiety. Now, a new study shows consoling your pet may not help.
"One thing that the study showed was their dogs got really upset whether they held them, whether they left them alone," says Nancy Dreschel, DVM, a veterinarian at Pennsylvania State University in Philadelphia, tells Ivanhoe.
During the study, veterinarians sampled the dogs' saliva from a chewed cotton rope after they listened to a thunderstorm recording. Vets then measured the stress hormone cortisol and found its levels increased an average of 200 percent during a storm!
Dr. Dreschel says, "Physiologically, they're definitely responding -- they're body's responding -- to this stress."
So how do you help Fido cope? Researchers say having other dogs around may help lower stress levels. "In dogs that lived in households with other dogs, their response was not as high and seemed to come back to normal more quickly," Dr. Dreschel says. But don't run out and get another dog just yet. She says talk to your vet first.
While Nordstrom figures out the best way to calm Iko, she's lucky thunderstorm season doesn't last forever. "It only really happens a few months out of the year. We try to work with him the best we can." Working to help man's best friend weather the next storm.
Researchers point out that having a multiple-dog household won't cure your pet of storm phobia. If you have a dog with severe storm phobia, discuss behavior options, like medications, with your veterinarian.
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Help for Thunder-Phobic Dogs
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