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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thunderstorm nightmares no more

The other night, I awoke to a pant, pant, pant right in my face from Butterscotch our beloved  lab mix. As usual, he was anxious from the lightening and thunder that was booming outside.  I realized that his DAP collar was  due for renewal but at 2 am I was not going to go running off to the clinic to get a new one.  So, rather than going out  in my pj's, I decided to use some of the calming techniques that work for Butter.  These techniques can help your dog too and are worth trying.

Butter wears his DAP collar all the time so he is receiving the benefit of the pheromone before storms.
The collar should fit tight like a belt; not
loose like a necklace
The collars are very helpful to reduce anxiety in dogs.  DAP stands for Doggie Appeasing Pheromone. This product is the copy cat chemical to the pheromone that the mother dog makes to calm the puppies so they will nurse better.  Adult dogs still have active receptors in their brain for the DAP, so the collars work to help them be more calm.  The collars last a month, so mark on your calendar when you need to renew them.  It can be easy to forget when there is a long stretch without storms as we had. 

Butter's safe area is next to the
bed listening, with the curtains drawn, listening
to music.
Music with a heavy base beat such as hard rock, rap, disco or world music supplies a rhytm that actually calms dogs.  Butterscotch really likes North African/Egyptian belly dance music.  I did not have my cd player ready, but I was able to find a rock station on our bedroom radio that night. He settled down and finally slept within a few minutes of turning on the 80's rock station.  I fell asleep too, thank goodness.  After breakfast, I set up the cd  radio player in the bedroom with the remote on my night stand.  I loaded up 5 cd's of various north african, egyptian, mambo and reggea fusion music, and put the remote in a jar on my night stand.   Two nights later when the wind was howling and lightening flashing brightly,butter was right by my bedside.   That night I  just hit the remote to North African Groove by Putumayo and he settled to sleep within minutes. Much better.

Bella wants to get Butter to chase, but
he is not in the mood
Now you may be wondering how Bella our other dog is coping through this.  Bella fortunately could care less about thunder and lightening.  She is happy to play with her toys, sleeps like a log through it all in her crate and ignores Butterscotch's worry.  This is great.  Occasionally a housemate dog may feed off the fearful dog.  That can be difficult because now you may have two fearful dogs, or one that is nipping or agitating the fearful dog trying to get the afraid dog to play.  This can lead into housemate fighting.  Luckily we do not have that problem.  If your dogs seem to be crabbier with each other in storm season, anxiety over storms may be the cause.

There are antianxiety medications that can be used even on an older dog such as Butter if he gets more agitated and needs that help.  The medications do not sedate, rather calm the mind to learn to self calm.
Other products such as Thundershirts, natural supplements, and distractors such as food puzzles can also help.  There is a great article about fear of thunderstorms on our website
I will also be giving a presentation about fear of thunderstorms and helping your pet at Prairie Land Feeds this Sunday April 17 at 2 pm.

Now Butter has a new collar on, and hopefully we will not have an storms for a few days. When we do, I have more help in place for him and for me! 
How does your pet handle thunderstorms?  Are there techniques that you have found helpful? I would love to know.
Butterscotch - much happier post storm!
 Thanks Dr. Sally J Foote