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Another thunder concern

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I've looked around this forum and found a few posts about problems with thunder, but none really went into detail how worried their dog became.


My bc has always been afraid of thunder, and I've given him benadryl which helps somewhat, but he is just getting worse and worse. He used to get scared when it was really thundering out, now he gets scared when it feels like it's going to rain, or when I do something to indicate it might rain like closing the windows.


He usually hides, starts breathing really really heavy (you'd think he was just running for a couple hours) and his whole body shakes heavily. If I try to comfort him, he pees. Living in FL, where it rains about everyday for 6 months a year, I'm getting more concerned about him as he keeps getting worse, whereas I was expecting him to get used to it.


I've mentioned it to the vet numerous times, and was told just give him benadryl, there is nothing else to do except a doggy psychiatrist. But I'm not sure the vet understood the extent.


Is this heavy freaking out a common thing, not to worry about? Do your dogs just hide, or do they really get scared and worried and seem to go into a panic attack?


I appreciate any advice, thanks.

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Originally posted by macky:

If I try to comfort him, he pees... I've mentioned it to the vet numerous times, and was told just give him benadryl, there is nothing else to do except a doggy psychiatrist. But I'm not sure the vet understood the extent.

I just read Patricia McConnell's book, the Other End of the Leash. (Recommend it highly)In case you're not familiar with her, she is a very well respected behaviorist. She mentions that storm phobias very frequently get worse, not better over time. Comforting your dog only validates his feelings that he should be worried. Instead, your manner should be matter of fact, and upbeat. However, this may not make a differnce to a dog who is as phobic as you described yours to be. In that case she strongly suggests making an appt with a veterinary behaviorist to place the dog under anti-anxiety meds beginning prior to and during the actual storm activity. She goes into quite a bit of detail on this protocol in her book.
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Have you tried crating him before the storm hits. Covering the crate with a sheet helps too. Usually trying to comfort them only makes their anxiety worse. Try to not make a fuss. Just give the benadryl in a tasty treat, crate him and cover the crate.


Our Buddy is thunderphobic but not bad as you describe your dog. I am sure someone will post more info for you. Have you asked the vet if there is something stronger or better to give the dog?


We also use a (DAP) Dog Appeasing Pheromone diffuser. It is like the plug in air fresherners, and is plugged into the wall, on bottle lasts about a month. This has worked wonders on all three of our dogs attitudes towards each other and Buddy's storm fears. It is avail at Petsmart and Petco but is much cheaper to order on line. It acts like the pheromone given off by a lactating bitch and makes the dogs calm and happy. You might try it.


Good luck and I hope things improve for you and your dog.

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I had one that hurt himself trying to escape every time there was a storm; he would go into a full blown panic attack trying to get out by whatever means possible. If he was loose I think he would have gone through a glass door or window. The max dose of an elavil plus the max dose of valium did not help him. Our vets said he was the worst case they had seen.


Don't reassure your dog during these fear events; you're only reinforcing its reaction. If benadryl or acepromazine is all your vet will provide; it's time to find a new vet.


Read Storm Phobias by Karen L. Overall, VMD, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVB



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Thanks for the replies, I will check those out right away.


I have only tried to comfort him maybe a couple times to try to get him to stop breathing so heavily when it was especially bad. Usually I make like the storm doesn't bother me and continue like normal trying to keep him distracted and having fun but he usually is just frozen by fear. I don't have a crate for him, but he seemed content hiding in a little fort my son made out of blankets.


Thanks again for the replies.

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One more thing, I have had 2 border collies. This one who is really afraid of storms was born (or stayed) in an outside cage/kennel at the breeders during summer when there are thunderstorms.


My other bc was born inside during winter, where there wasn't any thunderstorms and she has no fear of thunderstorms at all.


Has anybody read that this may be a related to a cause of thunderphobia?

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I am heading up a study on noise phobia in Border Collies (see link in my .sig). Noise (and storm) phobias in dogs have all the same characteristics as phobias in humans. We are currently collecting data and analyzing DNA samples from noise phobic and non-noise phobic Border Collies in order to understand the genetic variation underlying this problem. It appears that noise phobia is enriched in some breeds and in families within breeds, so there is most likely a genetic component.


Dogs that are predisposed to phobias or other anxiety problems are likely to develop a full-blown fear response after only one traumatic exposure. There is definitely an environmental component but it appears that the genetic substrate is also key, as there are also dogs who live in highly storm-prone areas and never develop a fear of noises.


In my own household I have one phobic and one non. When Fly, my normal dog, reacts to noises it is markedly different from Solo's response. Fly merely startles and then recovers instantly, the same as most people would if surprised or spooked. Solo becomes fearful, withdraw, and attempts to find places to hide; he paces, drools, and has very dilated pupils. He is on behavioral medications for other reasons (generalized anxiety) that ameliorate the response somewhat. For very bad storms/events (i.e., the Fourth of July) he also gets alprazolam (generic Xanax, a benzodiazepine). At the time he started treatment his phobia was rapidly worsening. He can now ride through most noise events without panicking, and remain still and quiet, although he's obviously not happy about them.


The article Mark linked to above is the one I would have pointed you to.


If you are interested in participating in our noise phobia study, feel free to contact me privately or check out our project website below. We are always looking for more dogs. Participation merely requires filling out a questionnaire, taking some cheek swab samples of DNA, and mailing them back to us (you don't have to take your dog in anywhere to be tested). The kits are free. Let me know if you have any questions! I can answer them here, by PM, or by email.



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Libby my golden/lab mix was fine with storms until these last couple of years ( she is now 10 yrs old). Libby will tear up trees, siding etc during a storm if she is outside. We have bought a crate for when we are not at home. At night or when there are storms we just bring her in and leash her to my husband's side of the bed. That works for her, she feels safe there.

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Boy isn't thunder phobia fun! :-(

We just rescued a near eight year old B&W that was given up because she chewed apart crates and thru wooden doors. As you might imagine, she's got one canine tooth left and the rest of the front are pretty well worn or broken.


Ellie has separation and thunder issues. She's my third BC, so I know what I'm getting into. We tried the DAP and a snug fitting t-shirt in the beginning, about a month ago. I also spent a night on the couch pretending to sleep while she was wedged between me and the back of the couch. When the lightning and thunder hit and she started to get up I had her collar and she had to stay put.


Frankly, after that night things have been much better. We currently have her on Melatonin, on advice of the vet daily during thunder season. We also try to let her find her own spot when a bad storm comes in and we then leave her alone. Just another note, some of the research I did also mentioned the possibility of static building up during storms which is why some dogs went for bathtubs or bathroom floors. Makes sense to me. Fortunately, things must be better for Ellie at our small ranch. Knock on wood, she's yet to tear anything apart and has been an absolute joy with her personality.


Now...lets see if she can help me model behavior for our 16 month old bad teenager red and white BC. :rolleyes:


Good Luck!


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