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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There are few things that are more frightening to a dog than a thunderstorm. Large dogs and small seem to be easily startled by the loud noises and flashing lights that accompany strong storms.
Most thunder phobic dogs will start to pant or pace when they get sense an impending storm. They may also scratch, whine or hide.
Veterinarian Dr. Wayne Mercer of the Southpark Animal Hospital recommends sitting with them in a dark, enclosed room or crating them until the storm passes, but don't shower them with attention. "Make sure the blinds are closed so they can't see outside, but don't overreact to their fear either. You don't want to encourage worse behavior." Mercer has also seen some success with thunder jackets, which fit snugly over the dog and can provide a soothing effect. He notes that these seem to work better on short-haired dogs.
There are some pooches become simply inconsolable during storms, and owners have to take more drastic measures. Animal behaviorists have used desensitization tapes, where storm sounds are played at low levels, and when animals are calm they are rewarded. The process does take a lot of time and patience, but for some dogs it works. In some cases anti-anxiety medication must be prescribed. Mercer says it's not ideal. "The medication must be given about 45 minutes before the storm, and in the summer those storms may pop up nearly every day." He also adds that not every dog will respond to the medicine.
If your dog gets scared during storms it's important to bring them inside. Terrified dogs have crashed through screen doors or even gone through fences to get out of the storm's way, and injured themselves in the process.