Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Dogs

Font Size

When Your Dog Is Afraid of Storms

What to do if you have a dog with storm phobia.
By Daphne Sashin
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

It can be heartbreaking to watch: Even before the first clap of thunder, otherwise well-behaved dogs begin to pace, pant, cling to their owners, hide in the closet, or jam themselves behind the toilet. In severe cases, they'll claw through drywall, chew carpets, or break through windows in their escalating panic.

Thunderstorm phobia in dogs is real, not uncommon, and shouldn't be ignored, experts say.

Recommended Related to Dogs

Rabies in Dogs

Rabies is a virus that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including dogs, cats and humans. Though preventable, there is good reason that the word “rabies” evokes fear in people. The disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii, and everywhere throughout the world except for Australia and Antarctica. Annually, rabies causes the deaths of more than 50,000 humans and millions of animals worldwide. Once symptoms appear, the disease results in fatality.

Read the Rabies in Dogs article > >

"Most of the time they don't grow out of it on their own, and many will get worse with time if nothing is done," says Matt Peuser, DVM, a veterinarian at Olathe Animal Hospital in Kansas.

Why does storm phobia happen, and what can you do if your dog suffers from it?

Storm Phobia Triggers

Veterinarians don't know all the triggers but suspect the dogs are set off by some combination of wind, thunder, lightning, barometric pressure changes, static electricity, and low-frequency rumbles preceding a storm that humans can't hear. According to one theory, dogs experience painful shocks from static buildup before the storm.

The anxiety often gets worse throughout the season as storms become more frequent.

Dogs often start having storm-related panic attacks seemingly out of nowhere, says Barbara L. Sherman, PhD, DVM, associate professor of veterinary behavior at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine and a past president of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

"Owners come in and say, 'He wasn't like this last year," Sherman tells WebMD. "It's really heart wrenching to see these dogs that are usually calm companions become severely affected by thunderstorms."

Herding breeds, such as border collies, may be predisposed to the problem, according to an Internet survey by Tufts University researchers. Dogs with other fearful behaviors, such as separation anxiety, also seem more prone to panic.

Some dogs with storm phobia are also frightened of other loud noises, such as fireworks or gunshots, but others are only afraid of storms.

What to do? There's no easy fix, and unless your dog is only mildly affected, it can be difficult to treat, vets say. But there are lots of tools to reduce your dog's distress during storm season:

Today on WebMD

boxer dog
Slideshow
dog on couch
Evaluator
 
bad dog
Slideshow
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Pit bull looking up
Article
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Slideshow
 
Dog scratching behind ear
Slideshow
dog catching frisbee
Slideshow
 

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Dog Breed RMQ
Quiz
puppy eating
Slideshow
 
pooldle
Slideshow
bulldog in party hat
Slideshow