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Severe Thunderphobia

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Hello - I've reviewed a number of the older posts on thunder and well, wish i could have some of the problems reported.. at least by comparison!

 

My 10yr old has had the thunder fear since he was about 2 or so. Until the past 2 years it was bearable as he would generally go to hide in one of the bathtubs and I could live with that even if he sometimes would dig in the tub or on the tiles when it got really bad. Fireworks were bad too though he would generally reappear far sooner.

 

But he has gotten far worse the past two years to the point that it really is a big problem this summer. He no longer hides in the tub and instead wishes to get higher. This translates into dog on tables, counter, sink, etc. I have not seen any mention of this type of behavior in the other threads I read. Besides the obvious knocking things off and over, the risk of damage from digging is very high.

 

In addition, he has developed what I assume is a type of fear agression. He will snap when I grab him to put him back on the floor. He has no separation anxiety and no issues like this with toys or food.

 

He can't be crated for two reasons - one, he turns into tasmanian devil and pulls the bars apart with his teeth. Two, he was diagnosed last summer with a grade 5 heart valve leak. Even if I had faith that the crate would contain him, I think the stress level is far above tolerable. Frankly I wonder if the heart issue and the increased thunder fear are not somehow related.

 

I have a long uncarpeted stair case in the house which is impossible to safely restrict so I hesitate to give him a sedative. At this point I have double gated the kitchen and the master bath to prevent access. I've got some left over pergo I put on the dining table when storms are expected and generally have moved breakables elsewhere. Of course, this makes the home look and feel like a war zone and I can no longer make any plans to go out myself prior to being certain of the weather.

 

So wondering if any of you 1) have had similar jumping/digging experiences and 2) any suggestions to get him back to a more 'normal' state (like go in the bathtub). I've recently tried the phernome collar, no effect at all.

 

Thanks for reading all of this.

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Based on what you describe, I would seriously consider talking to my vet about meds. Meds have helped Dean more than anything. Even though he is still bothered by thunder, he is far, far better than he was.

 

Also, have you tried the Thundershirt? It makes a really big difference for some dogs.

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I agree with the meds option. Put him a room with a locked door if you're concerned about the staircase.

 

Another option worth a look (and maybe trying first), is thunder shirt (http://www.thundershirt.com/). Essentially, it's swaddling for dogs. Others on the board have recommended it but I have no personal experience with it.

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Based on what you describe, I would seriously consider talking to my vet about meds. Meds have helped Dean more than anything. Even though he is still bothered by thunder, he is far, far better than he was.

 

Also, have you tried the Thundershirt? It makes a really big difference for some dogs.

 

I've not gone the thundershirt route. I did ask at the local petsmart and the manager suggested 'save your money' so I kind of discounted the effectiveness.

 

As to meds, I'm also hesitant as I do not know the lead time necessary. The way things are here in the nj/ny/ct area thunderstorms are often expected but do not always materialize in all areas. I'd hate to have to drug the dog every day during the summer to be covered on the 15 or so bad days (or nights). What meds do you use and how often, etc?

 

I have had mild success in calming him between thunder by playing catch with him but again, two hours of catch is a bit much for both me and him (given heart cond.) and no fun at 4am! The loud stereo can also reduce slightly the durantion of the panic by masking the more distant claps but I worry that he is beginning to associate the stereo with thunder. Like all border collies he thinks too much!

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I use the Thundershirt and Theanine (purchased at local health food store) for Levi's fireworks fear which do help. However, his fear never got as bad as what you describe. I would seriously consider going to your vet and talking about prescription mediation. It won't sedate him to the point of him not being able to negotiate stairs. If you're worried you could continue to block him off while he is on medication, though you may have to keep him on it throughout the season. It is hard to know what is the best thing for our dogs but it also isn't easy to watch a dog be in that great of fear. Especially since thunderstorms can be so prevalent in some parts of the country. The photo in the tub just breaks my heart for some reason.

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What you are describing is my biggest fear... My dog has thunderphobia which began progressing at an alarming rate when he was about a year and a half.

I do have the thundershirt. I trained and had him wear it during normal circumstances. I believe it takes the edge off; but do not expect a miracle. Before the shirt he went I could not sleep through a thunder storm because he would literally scream (from the bathroom tub of course). Now, he has decided the closet is his go-to place and though there is heavy panting; he doesn't scream any more.

 

I'd try it!

 

Mary

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I've not gone the thundershirt route. I did ask at the local petsmart and the manager suggested 'save your money' so I kind of discounted the effectiveness.

 

I believe it has a full money back guarantee.

 

It's worth a shot. I do know people whose dogs are helped immensely by it. I do use the one I got on Tessa, and it helps her settle a bit.

 

L-Theanine is another good option to research.

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Ive heard from friends with phobic dogs that the thunder shirt helps. I have 2 thunder phobic dogs, used to be 4 (2 have passed on) as they age for us it seems to get better as they are losing their hearing. The younger one is opposite of yours she goes down stairs under the steps and stays till it's over. Works for us. The middle one has to be touching my leg or he puts himself in his hidey hole (a soft crate by my bed) and stays till it's over.

The older dog has lost most of her hearing so she isn't as affected. The 2 that passed away were littermates and severe.

 

I also used xanix when it's really gonna be bad and have used it right as the storm hit. It works better if you can dose ahead of time but still took the edge off when I gave it to them as it hit. I use 1/2 a 2mg. tablet for my reg. size dogs.

 

None of them are to loopy from the drug nothing like falling down steps.

 

What ever you do don't use ACE. Long ago a vet gave it to me for one of them to try for thunder. It was horrible and had their been steps I'm sure he'd of fallen down them. Bad drug that one.

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Talk to your vet about prescription drugs. My vet prescribed valuim when I said that I didn't want to use acepromazine. It works. I give him a pil when storms get close and he's calmed down within 15 min. On the 4th I gave him a pill in the afternoon and he was okay for the rest of the day and evening.

 

Honesty I wouldn't wait until things got really bad before looking into drugs. Anxiety issues almost always get worse if they're not dealt with. If something like a thundershirt works, great. But if the dog is still having issues then do them a favor and talk to your vet about drugs.

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A friend of mine has has good results with "Happy Traveler", which is a calming supplement. She got it at Whole Foods, but I saw it on Amazon as well. Worth a shot! And so's the thundershirt, although it does not work for all dogs, it does work for some and the latter swear by it.

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Honesty I wouldn't wait until things got really bad before looking into drugs. Anxiety issues almost always get worse if they're not dealt with. If something like a thundershirt works, great. But if the dog is still having issues then do them a favor and talk to your vet about drugs.

 

I guess I'll bit the bullet and check in with the vet. His regular vet is in Vermont (far cheaper!) but the vet I have used once in a while down here does have the advantage of having multiple border collies. Hopefully she is still practicing.

 

In the interim I'll see if I can find any L-Theanine locally as tomorrow and sunday may be bad.

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If you can calm him out of panic with meds, you do have a chance of conditioning a safer response. I was able to teach my thunder phobic Golden to go to the tub when on meds, and over a long stretch (2 years) I gradually was able to wean her off and get her to go to the tub on her own.

 

Someone asked why I cared if I weaned her off, and the answer was I didn't and would give her the meds if I was able, but that sometimes storms popped up when I wasn't around to give them and I wanted her to be able to go there on her own, too.

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I feel your pain! Our boy tries to climb the walls and pants and drools and can't settle. I've tried the Anxiety Wrap (a Thunder Shirt type of product) with so-so results. I don't think he likes how tightly it fits. If we're home, we become the human version of the Thunder Shirt...cuddling him closely to us on the bed or the sofa and not letting him move. He eventually relaxes when we do this. I think that this method, which we've been using for over a year now, has finally conditioned him to understand he's safe when he's near us. We had a really bad storm pass over us yesterday afternoon, and he settled down under the desk at my feet. That was major progress!

 

We keep him crated when we're not home, so that if a storm passes, he can't go anywhere (fortunately he doesn't try to escape, though he does flail around a bit).

 

Good luck.

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The thundershirt works for us. I have 4 dogs - 2 terrified of thunder, 1 who thinks he should be because of the other two, and one who could care less. One was so bad, she would try running from place to place in a panic. With the thundershirt on, she stays in her bed. She is not happy, but she is also not in panic mode. I thought it would probably not work, but after talking to two owners who said that it made it bearable, I decided why not. She is comfortable in the shirt, even can sleep in it. I try to get the shirt on before the storms hit.

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I too have the thundershirt and it has helped. My girl would even react to flashes of light at night like the computer screen coming on and no storm. I found putting the shirt on her, putting her in a crate, radio on, and light in the room on helped the most. I also used the DAP spray on her thundershirt.

 

Does your dog resist a crate always? If so maybe try teaching him the crate is a good thing so you can use it when you need to. IF the crate is a no go then I too would try to dog proof a small room.

 

I would also talk to your vet about medication options.

 

Hope things improve

 

Denice

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If you can calm him out of panic with meds, you do have a chance of conditioning a safer response. I was able to teach my thunder phobic Golden to go to the tub when on meds, and over a long stretch (2 years) I gradually was able to wean her off and get her to go to the tub on her own.

 

Someone asked why I cared if I weaned her off, and the answer was I didn't and would give her the meds if I was able, but that sometimes storms popped up when I wasn't around to give them and I wanted her to be able to go there on her own, too.

^^This. I have one who will try to climb the walls. She has a thundershirt, which if it helps, does so only marginally. She is getting progressively worse as she ages.

 

I have another phobic dog who is a fear biter. In the 12 years I've owned him, the only bad bite he's given me was when I tried to get him out of a crate after a storm.

 

For a young dog I would definitely see if I could work with a vet to try anti-anxiety meds (NOT Ace!). A vet you don't see regularly may be less inclined to prescribe something like Xanax or Prozac because of the potential of abuse by the human. But if you could manage a trip to a board-certified vet behaviorist, such a vet would work with you to come up with a combination of drugs and desensitization methods that could actually turn him around. I believe the idea is that the meds make them feel mellow and they learn to associate storms with that drug-indiced mellow feeling (that's a very simplistic explanation, but you get the idea).

 

It won't hurt to try to thundershirt as well, and I think I'd tether him to me during storms (which doesn't help if you're not there). I just have started to restrict myself during potential storm times so I can be here and not have to worry about the dogs hurting themselves. The fear aggressive dog will generally just tuck himself away somewhere and hide, but the other dog will damage herself and a crate, so I just put a leash on her, and her thundershirt, and we ride it out. I do keep melatonin for them, but I don't know if it helps a great deal or not. It doesn't hurt though....

 

J.

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My dog is scared of thunder, too, and I worry it will progress as he gets older.

 

I do know that he is much less scared - or at least is comforted - if I cuddle him to the point of squeezing him. He'll actually back between my legs when I sit on the couch, and let me wrap my calves completely around him and squeeze. So, the thundershirt idea actually makes a lot of sense to me.

 

Good luck!

 

Mary

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Sounds like my dog a couple years ago. DRUGS!! I actually had to use them with a calming cap (before I could find a thundershirt). The combo of drugs, shirt and cap helped along with some counter conditioning whenever I could (I spent many a night sleeping in the living room with the dog so DH could sleep). White noise. I find a different location often helps and mine doesn't mind being in a crate in the car when there are storms.

 

As for drugs, check with some anti anxiety drugs. I buy mine at the pharmacy and they (K Mart) have a pet drug program so it is reasonable. It may take a couple hours for the drugs to get into the dog's system, so plan ahead. And I find noise such as TV or radio helps with mine.

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Lewie's never been as extreme as some dogs, but there is usually heavy panting, drooling, and general nervousness. I bought the Thundershirt a few months ago with some skepticism. The first time we tried it I didn't notice a big change, probably because he wasn't used to the shirt. But, I've continued to use it and he has adjusted. Now I can say that it does help take the edge off. As Mary(&Sully) said, it's no miracle cure, but it does help. The Thundershirt along with a no-nonsense-no-coddling approach has made storms less traumatic for Lewie.

 

The Petsmart manager was wrong. I would recommend the Thundershirt.

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Well I managed to get in to see the vet late yesterday afternoon and have just filled a generic valium 5mg prescription. Looks like the storms are on the way so will see if it helps. The vet said that the previous try with this (I called my VT vet to confirm and he did give 10mg in 2006) may not have worked because the dose was too high and that sometimes less can be more effective. I'll look into the thundershirt too.

 

Someone asked how he is with the crate in normal times and he is fine I will put him in sometimes if I have company and he will from time to time go into it on his own as its in a cool room. So not a problem with the crate per se just the being caged during the storm.

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Highly recommend Valium. Spur takes one as needed during storm season about 30 minutes before it is expected to be in our area (I watch the weather radar) and it helps him tremendously. Without it he trembles, paces, drools, etc. With the Valium he is able to relax and I can even leave him home alone uncrated without fear of him tearing up anything.

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Julie also mentioned tethering. My terrier has been helped by the Thundershirt... it's not a miracle but it has taken the edge off. What gets him are the 3am storms with lots of lightning. He'll start pacing, climbing behind the television, or trying to get on top of things. He usually seeks us out for comfort for most storms, but the 3am ones get him riled and he doesn't want us touching him.

 

Tethering him and preventing him from pacing/climbing/etc has been slowly helping. He got a bit worse before he got better, but by not being able to engage in his unsafe, panicked behavior, he's slowly been settling down. It might be a case of learned helplessness, but that's better than the extremely unsafe alternatives he was choosing.

 

I'd say the Thundershirt and tethering are worth a try, along with the medication. Good luck!

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Something else you may want to look into is a DAP collar. I just heard from someone who had very good success reducing fireworks anxiety in their dog using a DAP collar. Since the dog wears the collar and it lasts for a month then it might help for those pop up storms.

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In my experience, most people who work at chain pet stores know just enough to make them consider themselves experts -- When in actuality they are blooming idiots who don't know anything about dog behavior or psychology. And of course, PetSmart does not sell the Thundershirt, so why would the manager wish to promote it to you?

 

Secret has one. It helped her a great deal -- to the point where we don't need to use it nearly as often because she doesn't get nearly as stressed as she used to. She's okay now if a storm rolls through at night when we're in bed (ie: she stays in bed), but I'll still put it on her for daytime storms (or fireworks) because that seems to bother her more. She is a bathroom hider, but she just curls into a ball by the shower.

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