Often referred to as thunderphobia, but for many dogs other storm related stimuli are at least as, if not more important, than the sounds of thunder.
Fear reactions that
- are consistent in terms of what causes the fear
- are learned, irrational, not adaptive
- May be, but is not necessarily intense (hysteria, catatonia, panic)
"Normal" Fear vs. Phobia
- Experiencing fear every time a hungry lion charges at you is normal (run, hide, defend)
- Experiencing fear when lightning hits a nearby tree is normal (run, hide)
- Experiencing fear every time there is a dark cloud in the sky is a phobia
Interaction of Stimulus X Fear
- Traumatic/Aversive Events
- Restricted Early Experiences
- Unintentional Reinforcement
- Under NO circumstances should punishment be used
- Relaxation...Keeping the pet calm and relaxed in general is an very important part of treatment
Treatment may be simple:
- Bring the dog indoors during the storm
- Provide television or radio "noise"
- Dog may be ok as long as owner is present
- Provide "safe hiding place"
May be serious and not respond to simple treatment
- change in barometric pressure, ionization, illumination
- Maintenance drug: gets daily
- Fast-acting drug: gets as needed
- At least for length of storm season
- Relief from chronic, mild to moderate anxiety
- Some anxiolytic effect if owners miss storm-specific dose
- To get dog through the storm NOW
- Maintenance drug may not be sufficient when severe storm immediately overhead
- Fast-acting anxiolytic effect
- Some notable for anti-panic effects, especially alprazolam
- Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning
- Begin with lowest intensity stimulus that the pet exhibits a fear response to
Clomipramine 2-3 mg/kg b.i.d.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor
Fluoxetine 1-2 mg/kg daily
Paroxetine 1-2 mg/kg daily
Fast Acting Drug
Diazepam 0.5-2.0 mg/kgAlprazolam 0.02-0.1 mg/kg
- Expose pet to a very low level of stimulus
- Counter-condition with food when relaxed or playful
- Very gradually increase the intensity of the stimulus until it approximates actual levels
- If at any time the pet experiences anxiety or fear, move back to lower stimulus level
D.A.P. may be beneficial in some cases.
Crowell-Davis SL and Murray T 2006. Veterinary Psychopharmacology. Blackwell Publishing.