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Dr. Sally J. Foote/Pet Talk

Time:2019-05-27 22:13wine - Red wine life health Click:

University East Central Illinois Tuscola Monticello Champaign

Foote Pet Talk storm fear.jpg

Photo by: Provided by Dr. Sally J. Foote

Butterscotch, 14 at the time of this picture, would get through storms with his comfy bed and a 'senior sangria' of a safe room, supplements and pain relief.


Fear of thunderstorms is a common problem in dogs. The anxiety causes pacing, panting, digging, shaking or even breaking teeth to get out of a crate.

These signs may be mild or severe. This fear can cause serious health problems for a dog and sleepless nights for the owner.

The large selection of products, supplements, medications and tools for storm fear can be overwhelming.

In my 35 years of practice, I created an approach to quickly screen for storm anxiety, and based on this, created the medication and safety plan to reduce storm fear.

I call this the storm sangria. The blending of the medication with training the dog to go to a safe room is like the mix of wine (the drug) and fruit in a sangria to create an enjoyable drink.

The level of drug will vary depending on the level of panic in the dog. Think of how a nervous person may want a stronger sangria than your easy-going friend.

Here are some important points to know about storm phobia:

— This problem has built up to a point of panic. A cocktail combining both medications to calm the brain and safe room training is required. It is not just about drugs.

— One intense storm may create the present fear. This will get worse without a plan.

— Recognizing the fear early is required to prevent panic. Meds will not work when the dog is highly anxious.

— Wind, rain, thunder, lightning, change in barometric pressure are all triggers. They cannot counter condition to this. Isolate them in a cave-like room to remove the stimulus of these triggers.

Here's how to mix a storm sangria:

— Tell your DVM exactly what your dog does during the storm — this indicates the level of panic. The higher the panic, the higher the need for sedation medication with anxiety reduction medication.

— Tossing food into the bathroom, basement or walk-in closet daily is a good training game. See my YouTube video at drsallyjfoote.com by visiting youtube.com/watch?v=YOia4yajy6M. it makes it fun.

— Play heavy beat, rock music in the safe room — from Butterscotch's playlist at drsallyjfoote.com.

— Keep a Kong food puzzle stuffed with frozen canned food ready in the freezer for storms.

— Give the medications early on storm days — tell your DVM how your dog responded with the medications. If they were too sedate — this is good because they were too drunk to experience the fear, which helps them to become less fearful. The medication can be reduced for future storm events.

Brain aging can create a storm-phobic dog. Arthritis, liver and kidney inflammation change brain balance, resulting in anxiety.

The senior storm sangria is a lighter cocktail, blending the safe room plan supplements and pain relief. Often, arthritis limits how easily the dog can move to the safe room. They become anxious as they are stuck in place.

Discuss your aging dog's behavior with your DVM. I have seen many older dogs have a heart attack or be very stiff from pacing the day after a storm. Help your older buddy out and talk to your DVM.

I am now presenting to animal health professionals and pet owners at events and through my website, drsallyjfoote.com. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, I will host a webinar for owners and animal care professionals about storm phobia — "The Big Bad Boom." Email me at dr.sally@mchsi.com to register.

I hope you have a safe storm season!

Dr. Sally J. Foote can be found at the Okaw Veterinary Clinic in Tuscola. She has articles on puppy socialization and other topics at okawvetclinic.com.


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