Rain, Rain Go Away: Thunderstorm Anxiety in Dogs


Some people think dogs with thunderstorm anxiety will figure out over time that the storm won’t do them any harm. That never happens. In fact, without intervention, the fear typically worsens.

I argue it may be inhumane to merely let even mildly anxious dogs deal with storms without any effort to diminish anxiety.

Finding a Hiding Place

Some dogs find a way to deal with their uneasiness or you can support a need to find a “hiding spot.” Typical locations may be under a bed, in the back of a closet or a bathtub. The basement is also a common place to escape since dogs can’t see or hear the storms as well down under.

Moderate Anxiety

Snuffle mats can be great food puzzles

As long as the anxiety is mild, you may be able to distract with a food puzzle filled with favorite treats. Or by hiding favorite treats in different places around the house, as searching may be time consuming. Another distraction can be kids tossing a squeaky toy and playing games. Play is a surprisingly effective stressbuster.

Close shades (so dogs can’t see the lightning or recognize rain clouds rolling in as some dogs are able to do).

Turn a talk radio station on or the TV as background, or calming music available at icalmpetVictoria Stilwell Positively Calming Music or A Sound Beginning, or via the radio whatever streaming service you prefer.

Support for Moderate Anxiety

Don’t wait until the fear worsens – even a dog demonstrating the mildest concerns regarding of the storms should receive intervention. Here are some ideas:

The good news is that there are countless nutraceutical products available. The bad news is that there is no science to demonstrate that they all work.

Here are a three products with science as a backbone and a proven ability to be effective at moderating mild anxiety:

Zylkene: For situational stress and environmentally induced problems. Zylkene helps balance reactions in some situations and supports maintaining normal and relaxed dispositions. Inside capsules is powdered hydrolyzed milk protein (which contains properties to calm) that you can choose to sprinkle on food (most dogs like the taste) or “pill the pup” with the capsule.

ANXITANE (L-Theanine) Chewable tablets to encourage calm and contains a pure synthetic form of L-Theanine, an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves. ANXITANE tablets are palatable for most dogs.

Solliquin: Contains a patented combination of ingredients: L-theanine, Magnolia and Philodendron and NMXSLQ05® a trademarked high quality protein source which supplements ten essential amino acids including the precursors of glutathione and serotonin.

And there’s more…

Calming Care: A probiotic to help dogs to maintain calm behavior. The notion is that what’s in a dog’s gut is related to neurotransmitters in the brain. Think about it, if you’re really nervous before a big exam, you might feel those “butterflies” in your tummy or your stomach may respond in incomfortable ways. It’s the same for dogs. Relaxing the tummy can relax the brain.

Adaptil: When lactating mother dogs deliver milk to puppies, it contains a calming pheromone. Adaptil is a copy of that pheromone, which comes as a plug-in diffuser or a collar (obviously the dog collar will go everywhere the dog goes).

Dog modeling a Thundershirt

Thundershirt: A snug vest that uses constant pressure to calm during storms (like swaddling a baby). And  Thunder-Ease is a Thundershirt infused with Adaptil.

Anxiety Wrap: A vest-like suit that fits around the dog, using acupressure to help calm.

Storm Defender: This super-hero-like cape, with its special lining, can bring relief to anxious dogs just prior to and during storms, producing a calming effect.

DIY: The do-it-yourself (or dog-it-yourself) version is to take an old t-shirt and fashion it so if fits snuggly (but not too tight) around your dog.

Professional Tip: Don’t only use a wearable for storms or it may become a cue that the storm is about here which can actually heighten fear.

And still more…..

Dog wearing Calmer Canine

Calmer Canine: Though this product was developed for separation anxiety, it can treat other anxieties. The Calmer Canine, which is very cool science, fits like a halo above the dog’s head. As the fight or flight center, the amygdala is the area in the brain responsible for producing fear and emotional responses, which express themselves as the signs of anxiety. An anxious brain is out of balance, not only hormonally, but also with overactive brain cells that produce harmful substances causing inflammation.  Calmer Canine’s treatment is called targeted pulsed electromagnetic field (tPEMFTM) signals. (The same technology is effective in treating humans with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety). The signals are invisible, sensation free and safer sometimes than meds (which, of course, may have adverse reactions). There are no known adverse reactions to the Calmer Canine.

What Everyone Wants to Know

CBD: Does using a CBD product lower thunderstorm anxiety? Anecdotally, CBD (cannabidiol, the non-psycho-active chemical compound from the Cannabid sativa plant) has shown to relieve anxiety. However, to date, there’s no science published in a peer-reviewed journal to specifically demonstrate this use. Also, please be warned that not all CBD products are equal. Contact your veterinarian before trying. However, in some places in the country – oddly, by law, veterinary professionals aren’t allowed to discuss CBD with clients even if it is perfectly legal.

What if the Dog is Terrified?

Comforting a dog is compassionate

Some dogs’ thunderstorm anxiety responses are so inconsolable, pacing, hypersalivating, losing house-training, and wanting to escape –truly the right thing to do is to speak with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist about a plan, which very likely will start with a psychopharmaceutical which can impact your dog now.

These dogs are typically more efficient at predicting storms than the National Weather Service. The dogs are so very terrified that without the appropriate drug, Adaptil or supplements in of themselves can’t touch the high level of sheer phobic response. Given time the Calmer Canine can make a significant difference, but then why allow your dog to suffer while this takes full affect? Under direction of a veterinary behaviorist or a general practitioner, the additional support of products listed above is helpful when used in conjunction with pharmacological intervention.

What Dog Parents Should NEVER Do

Never self-dose a dog with an anti-anxiety drug a human family member may be taking even if dogs may take the same drug as dosage, for starters, is a huge issue. Benadryl might seem like a good idea or a drug called acepromazine to make the dog sleepy. However, now you have a sleepy dog who remains panicked. Always do speak with a veterinary professional.

When a storm is approaching, never tie out dogs outside. This should be common sense, but every year some terrified, not to mention rain-soaked dogs, escape from yards.

Learn more about thunderstorm anxiety (and other canine anxiety issues as well) in the book Decoding Your Dog, authored by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and edited by Dr. Debra Horwitz, Dr. John Ciribassi and myself.