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Fear Of Loud Noises And Thunderstorm Phobia

If your pet is afraid of fireworks and thunderstorms, here are some tips to help you and them weather these phobias as stress free as possible. 

Please note, Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness & Laser Surgery Center is not a critical care, emergency, or specialty veterinary facility. While we would be happy to see your pet should they require immediate medical attention as our scheduling and staffing allows during our office hours, we reserve the right to refer, transfer, or otherwise redirect patients to a critical care, emergency, or specialty veterinary facility if we deem it is within the patient's best interest to do so.

1.  Do not leave your pet alone.  Your pet will most often be comforted simply by your presence.  If it is necessary to restrict your pet to a certain room in your house, try to spend as much time in that room with them as possible to keep them company.  Go about your normal routine to show your pet that you are not concerned by what is happening.

2.  Don’t react or coddle your pet.  Pets take their cues from us on how to react to their fears.  If your pet sees that you are bothered by fireworks and thunderstorms, they will pick up on that anxiety and become more anxious themselves.  A pet may seek physical contact from you, but you should not force it on your pet.  You should keep physical contact routine and comforting.  But, if you lavish your pet with affection or provide them treats, it will only reinforce their fears and make their behaviors worse.  Your quiet, calm presence is more beneficial to your pet than overwhelming them with adoration.

3.  Provide a safe place to hide.  Many pets try to squeeze themselves into hiding areas during a thunderstorm, or firework show.  Sometimes these locations can be dangerous or your pet may get stuck.  Provide your cat with a darkened closet or under furniture where they cannot get trapped.  A dog should have a dog crate or cage covered on three sides and the top with a blanket, leaving a 4th side open so the dog can observe your presence.  

Do Not Attempt To Drag A Pet From Their Hiding Space Unless There Is A Safety Issue That Makes It Absolutely Necessary!!  Many fearful pets become highly aggressive during periods of time when they are under stress and feeling fearful.  A usually well-mannered pet may defensively bite or scratch out of fear, and not understand that you only want to help.  If your pet has found a preferred hiding area that they can safely get in and out of without assistance, and is not a concern to their well being while hiding, your best option is to leave them where they are and let them come out of their own accord.  You may place food and water where the pet can have access to it when they do come out of hiding. If where your pet is hiding becomes a concern to their well being, you may want to call your municipal town adoption shelter, and they may provide someone to assist you in extracting your pet safely.

4.  Muffle the offending noise as much as possible.  Close outside windows and doors in the area where your pet is.  Turn on radios, televisions, or air conditioners to provide an everyday sound to drown out the thunderstorm or firework show.  Most pets find the drone of a white noise machine comforting.  I don’t recommend turning on the vacuum unless your pet has already proven not to have a phobia of this device as well.

5.  Make sure you have your pet’s sedative prescription filled and on hand before a fearful event occurs.  For some pets their phobia of thunderstorms and fireworks is so severe that they require a little medical assistance to be comfortable, as well as not be a danger to themselves or their families.  Waiting until your pet is displaying fearful behaviors in response to an event is not the time to compound the problem by putting them in the car and trying to take them to the veterinary office for an exam and prescription.  If you know your pet has a loud noise phobia, make sure you get them their physical exam and prescription filled as soon as possible so you are prepared for when the season is in full swing.

Check expiration dates on this medication on a monthly basis so you can renew your pet’s prescription in a timely manner.  Being caught off-guard by the medication having expired is not a fun experience for you or your pet, and may delay them in getting the help they need.

If you are going on vacation, this medication should be placed on your packing check-list so that it won’t be left at home, and all necessary medical exams should be completed before you leave.  A Veterinarian may not provide a prescription for a pet they have not recently examined, and it may mean you will have to take time away from your vacation to find a Veterinarian and get your pet examined if you forgot to bring their medication with you.

6. When it is all over, act like nothing happened.  When your pet finally decides to “return to normal” after the storm has passed or the show is over, go about the rest of your routine as if nothing happened.  This will reassure your pet that they are still part of your family, and it will hopefully not reinforce the fearful behavior, so the next time there is a thunderstorm or firework show they may be less fearful of it in the future.

Please, call Suffolk Veterinary Group at 631-696-2400 if you need assistance with your pet.

Please note, Suffolk Veterinary Group Animal Wellness & Laser Surgery Center is not a critical care, emergency, or specialty veterinary facility. While we would be happy to see your pet should they require immediate medical attention as our scheduling and staffing allows during our office hours, we reserve the right to refer, transfer, or otherwise redirect patients to a critical care, emergency, or specialty veterinary facility if we deem it is within the patient's best interest to do so.

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