STORMS: Four signs your pet is freaking out and what to do

WITH thunderstorms tipped daily into next week, veterinarians are urging pet owners to keep a close eye on their animals.

Australian Veterinary Association president Guy Weerasinghe said "storm phobia" could lead to pets hiding, harming themselves or running away.

And while thunder and lightning were obvious triggers, Dr Weerasinghe said even a sudden drop in barometric pressure could trigger anxiety in some animals.

Signs to watch for included:

  • panting,
  • pacing,
  • dilated pupils, and/or
  • licking lips

For the storms expected today and over the weekend, Dr Weerasinghe said pet owners should try bringing their pet inside, into a dark, quiet room and play some music.

Dr Weerasinghe said pet owners could sit with their pets with a reassuring hand on their side or chest, or cuddle them, but should avoid patting them in a "good dog" style, warning it could act as negative reinforcement and feel weird to the animal.

Longer term, Dr Weerasinghe said pet owners should consult with their vets to work out a plan for dealing with storms - in some cases they may require medication to help get them through it - and ensure they are microchipped to make it easier to reunite them in case they do run away during a storm.

"It's important to spot the behaviours early," he said.

"As they get older those behaviours can actually get worse as storms come through so you need to have that conversation (with your vet) early."

The most effective way of dealing with storm phobia was behavioural modification therapy, with the help of a veterinary behaviour specialist, which could help desensitise animals to storms, although it required a significant time commitment from pet owners.

Dr Weerasinghe also suggested pet owners set up a natural disaster kit for their pets containing:

  • any prescribed medications:
  • collar / harness / lead
  • cage
  • litter tray and litter
  • food and water
  • toys / blankets / treats
  • first aid kit

For more information on pets and natural disasters go to the Australian Veterinary Association website.



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