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Healthy Dogs

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When Your Dog Is Afraid of Storms

What to do if you have a dog with storm phobia.

4. In the winter, desensitize your dog to the sounds of a storm.

Play a CD of thunder recordings at low enough levels that don't frighten your dog, while giving him treats or playing a game. Gradually increase the volume over the course of several months, stopping if your dog shows any signs of anxiety. The goal is to get your dog used to the sound of thunder, and associate it with good things, Peuser says.

Experts caution that desensitization can have limited success in an actual storm because you can only recreate the noise, and not the other factors that may be bothering the dog, such as the static electricity or changes in barometric pressure.

5. Ask your veterinarian for advice.

The doctor may have more ideas for behavior modification and can assess whether medication may also be needed.

"Not every dog needs anti-anxiety medication, but dogs that are in a horrible state of high anxiety will really benefit," Sherman says. In severe cases, owners will keep their dogs on the medication for the whole season, while others give their dog medicine in the morning if there's a chance of a storm later on.

A 2003 study by veterinarians at the University of Georgia found that 30 out of 32 dogs with storm phobia showed significant improvement when given medication combined with behavior modification and desensitization.

"We have our best luck with a management plan that includes changing some features in the environment, applying some behavior modification techniques, and often some anti-anxiety medication," Sherman says. "Work with your veterinarian to come up with a treatment plan."

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Reviewed on June 08, 2012

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