I have two dogs: one is an Australian Shepherd mix, who is absolutely terrified of thunderstorms. He will automatically retreat under the bed or cowers in the shower if a storm is rolling through. Sometimes we don’t even have to check the weather, our dog will begin to show signs that a storm is coming to Cary, NC. He won’t go outside whatsoever until the thunderstorms have passed by.

Severe Weather in the Wake County, North Carolina

From the middle of March through the end of May, Raleigh and the surrounding areas can experience the peak of severe weather. April on average has the biggest shift in highs and lows throughout the days. The month of May sees the greatest rise in temperatures while humidity is at its lowest in the Spring.

The city of Raleigh is in a location of North Carolina that can witness several tornadoes in a short period of time. They have been spotted throughout the state in every month of the year, although these extreme weather conditions are mostly popular during the Spring season.

Not only does Wake County deal with tornadoes, but also hurricanes coming from the East coast. Often, hurricanes lose their stability by the time it reaches our area but we still endure the strong howling winds. Learn more about the Raleigh area’s severe weather history.

My wife and I are originally from the Appalachian Mountains in Southwest Virginia. We adopted our pups here in Wake County, North Carolina after relocating. I’ll tell you one thing, storms here in Raleigh are a lot different! The mountains acted as a shield from the rumbling thunder. Our first town in Wake County that we moved to was Apex. It was almost immediately that we experienced our first severe thunderstorm, since it was early summer time in 2014. The thunder doesn’t last long, but the “boom” is quite frightening and gargantuan!

What Could Trigger Astrapophobia for Pets?

Our pets have senses that we have never really experienced ourselves and therefore, could never fully understand.

Did you know that canines with longer or double layers of coat can actually experience static electric shocks before a storm enters the area? They can also detect barometric pressure abnormalities and frequencies so low that normal people couldn’t hear with their human ears.

One of my theories is that the flash of light is truly what scares my pup the most. There are certain regular lights that immediately trigger his fear as well.

Another theory I have is that the genetic predispositions or susceptibility of him being an Aussie mix. Australian Shepherds, along with many herding breeds, are known to have high anxiety during storms, especially the intense ones. Spayed or neutered, abused, and abandoned are more likely to be “thunder-phobic”.

A Storm Is Coming: The Early Signs Your Dog Can Give You

Dogs that begin to get anxious of a storm brewing close by may give us certain signals that we need to watch for:

Body Language

  • Pacing back and forth or change positions constantly
  • Spinning in circles
  • Trembling or even teeth chattering
  • Panting heavily
  • Ears are lowered and back
  • Tails down and tucked between the hind legs
  • Eyes widened
  • Yawning excessively

Vocal Signs

  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Howling

Flight Mode

  • Hiding in hard to reach places
  • Retreat to where water may be located

Fight Mode

  • Scratch at windows and doors
  • Destroying household items

Are You Helping or Encouraging Their Anxiety by Consoling Them?

Consoling Pet Anxiety with Thunderstorms in Raleigh NC

My wife and I console our trembling dog during storms and try to make him feel relaxed. Many believe we’re teaching him that his anxious behavior is encouraged, while others claim that calmly soothing and reassuring your dog is perfectly fine. It’s definitely a huge debate and I believe it depends on the pooch.

Both of our dogs were adopted here in Raleigh at the Wake County Animal Shelter. My wife had never been a pet parent until we were married. She loves being a dog mom and hates to see any of them severely affected emotionally and physically. We understand how some of you feel, it doesn’t seem right to do nothing and leave them all alone while having anxiety. Put yourself in your pet’s shoes. Wait, they don’t wear shoes..but you still get my point!

Some of you pet parents want to do something but it’s difficult to communicate with a someone who can’t talk back to you…you feel powerless in these moments.

8 Things You Can Do to Help Your Pet Overcome Their Anxiety

ways to calm pets during a severe storm in Wake County, NC.
  1. Check with your vet. First of all, the golden rule is to always consult with your veterinarian to see what’s the best solution for your pet, which may include medication.
  2. Give them distractions. Help your pets “fuhgetaboutit” by playing tug of war with their ropes or chew toys. You can also play fetch with their tennis balls or other stuffed animals so they can burn that nervous energy. Shop for pet toys at your local pet shop like Phydeaux located in Cary, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill.
  3. Train them with good behavior commands and simple tasks. One word speaks to pets: Routine. Practice commands all the time, not only when it’s raining cats and dogs outside (see what I did there?). When major weather does approach, your pet will remain focused with commands like “sit”, “lay down” or “go to bed” with a reward such as a treat every time. This ultimately replaces what used to be a time of negative energy with positive reinforcement.
  4. Establish a safe zone that they can go to anytime, not just during a storm. A lot of times, people use crates for punishment, but can actually be better utilized for a sanctuary for dogs. You can throw a blanket over it to make them feel more secure. Basements are not really that common here in the Raleigh area, but if you have them, that’s an ideal place as well. Make sure they are able to still be mobile if they wish to do so, or damages can occur if they’re in a panicked state.
  5. Purchase a hugging jacket for your pet from a local pet shop.
    Thunder-shirts, anxiety vests, hugging jackets, nervous wraps – whatever the name is they’re designed to have a calming effect on pets that’s very close to swaddling a baby when it’s upset. For the more D-I-Y approach, you can use a smaller sized shirt or a sheet to literally wrap your dog.
  6. Don’t listen to Edna, use a cape! I think we can all agree that wearing a cape makes us feel more brave and confident. In all seriousness, some pet owners use a special fabric as a cape that has a metallic lining that reduces their dog’s sensitivity to the charge.
  7. Mask the noise. Subtle and soothing noises that aren’t too overwhelming are the best option such as white noise machines. Sometimes using a TV is out of the question during a thunderstorm with the risk of a power surge. Secondary options such as radio, iPad or phone with plenty of battery life can help drown out the rumbling. There’s even mobile apps that you can download for white noise.
  8. CBD Oil for Pets. Not only is this a new topic for humans, but also for pets especially. There are multiple successful cases for the use of CBD oil for pets, personally knowing one myself. Consult with your veterinarian and find out if they offer CBD for pets. If so, make sure it will not interfere with any medication they’re currently taking. Java Jive in Cary, located next to Lochmere Golf Course offers CBD for pets just next to the register

Professional Dog Walking and Pet Sitters in Raleigh, Cary, Holly Springs, Morrisville, and Fuquay Varina

Rain or shine, we come to visit your pet at your home, in their known and comfortable environment. If it’s raining, thundering or lightning outside, we’ll take a quick potty break and come back inside to stay safe and play! Our visits are all inclusive, so we don’t have a time limit and we stay as long as we need to. Consider barking up our tree and schedule a free consultation so we can meet you and your pet.

As pet sitting specialists here in Wake County, we make sure your pets receive as much care as you give them. If you’re still on the fence, read testimonials from happy pet owners.