'I thought she'd die': Advice for pet owners amid brutal storms

As storms lash parts of the country many dog and cat owners are becoming more anxious about the safety of their pets who are overcome by fear when wild weather strikes.

Janet Buckley knows what it is like to watch a pet suffer from storm phobia, writing on Facebook’s Sunshine Coast Community Board on Sunday that they have tried everything for their little dog who is “absolutely terrified of storms”.

“She is so bad I thought that she will die from heart failure during a storm,” Ms Buckley said. 

Many other pet owners were sympathetic to her storm struggles.

“My poor furbaby is just as bad,” one said.

Another added: “Our girl is even terrified of heavy rain.” 

“My poor boy is physically sick with all the storms we have had recently (yes he is a cat),” another said.

The dog’s owner said her pet  is “absolutely terrified of storms”. Source: Janet Buckley via Sunshine Coast Community Board

Dr Danielle Appay from the Indooroopilly Veterinary Clinic explained that some pets are predisposed to anxiety through genetics or already have a generalised issue with anxiety which can then lead to them developing anxiety specific to certain situations, such as fireworks, separation or storms. 

“Sometimes pets may experience a scary event during a storm, for example, a tree comes down in the backyard, there is a loud boom of thunder over the house and they run and injure themselves etc,” she said.

“They begin to anticipate that something bad will happen when there are storms.”

The veterinarian said she had been told of cases where animals had been so stressed during wild weather that they had jumped out of windows or broken their legs trying to escape.

Dr Kirsty Fridemanis from the Toowong Family Vet in Brisbane says there are a number of things you can do to help animals who suffer from storm phobia.

She said animals were often medicated as sometimes there was very little control over when storms hit, making it much harder to implement behaviour modification.

“The trick is really to give the medication 30 minutes to an hour before the storm,” Dr Fridemanis said.

“Watch the radar and stay up to date with storm warnings so you can administer medications before storms hit.”

Vets say there are a number of natural supplements, medications and calming aids available and advise to talk to one about managing an animal’s storm phobia. Source: AAP

The veterinarian also recommends people do not mollycoddle their pets, but instead she said “redirect their attention or redirect their focus, as opposed to trying to comfort them”.

“Being with them but going about your business,” she said.

And for those who can’t make it home in time to be with their pets, Dr Fridemanis suggests trying to keep animals inside in a secure and cosier area.

Pet owner Ms Buckley also wrote in the post that she found a product which worked for her pooch, claiming it made her “calm, happy, a little sleepy and we are stress free for once”.

But Dr Fridemanis is reminding pet owners: “if people are seeking medication for their pets, we need to see the patient and examine the patient first.”

Dr Appay also advises dog owners to speak to their vet about management of storm phobia.

“There are natural supplements, medications, and calming aids available, as well as training and environmental enrichment/alteration that can help reduce anxiety,” Dr Appay said.