I have a fool-proof thunderstorm detector — more accurate than the local weather Doppler system. And she’s sitting right here on my lap (which makes typing a bit of a challenge). So I know a thunderstorm will be hitting here within an hour or two.
Kiera never used to be bothered by thunderstorms, but for the last few years they’ve turned her into a quivering mess, courtesy of chronic Lyme disease. (Lyme can affect neurological functioning in all kinds of weird ways, this being one of them.)
She usually starts showing signs of acute stress — panting, shivering, pacing, whining, drooling, dilated pupils, the desire to crawl inside my skin for comfort– a few hours before the storm actually hits. I’m guessing there must be something in the barometric change and the electrostatic condition of the atmosphere that she’s picking up.
I’ve found that giving her 5 mg of Melatonin as soon as she exhibits symptoms makes a big difference. I combine that with several drops of Rescue Remedy, and a D.A.P (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) plug-in diffuser. This combination helps tremendously.
To treat thunderstorm phobias, some vets recommend a dose of 3mg for a 35-100 lb dog. Smaller dogs get 1.5 mg, and larger dogs may get 6mg. The dose is given either at first evidence of thunderstorm – dog becomes agitated, distant rumbling of thunder, etc. or prophylactically before you have to leave the house when thunderstorms are predicted. This dose may be repeated up to 3 times daily. This may be used as a dose for animals with more generalized stress related disorders as well.
D.A.P. mimics the properties of the natural appeasing pheromones of the lactating female, which gives dogs a sense of well-being and reassurance. Pheromones are picked up and detected by an animal’s sense of smell. By replicating this signal of comfort, D.A.P. helps alleviate fear and stress-related signs associated with thunderstorms and loud noises, such as fireworks.
Melatonin and Rescue Remedy can be purchased at your local health food store. Petsmart carries D.A.P. or click the link above to order online.
If I’m somewhere where I don’t have my usual stash, I just give a Benadryl tablet which acts as a mild tranquilizer. It works quite well by helping to make your dog drowsy, which helps alleviate some of the separation anxiety symptoms that thunderstorms seem to induce.
The dosage for Benadryl is as follows: Dosage every 8 hours
Dogs under 30 lbs and Cats : 10 mg
Dogs 30-50 lbs: 25 mg
Dogs over 50 lbs: 50 mg
I’ve also had people ask me about Thundershirts. They work great for some dogs, and don’t seem to do much for others (the website claims that 80% of dogs show improvement. Your mileage may vary. I like using my own makeshift thundershirt. I’ll wrap Kiera in a large ace bandage around her chest wall. That way, I can control how snug I make it and how much of her I cover. It definitely has a positive effect on her.
If you want to give the Thundershirt a try, you need to make sure you put it on at least an hour before the anticipated high stress event.