Calming Your Pet’s Fears by Maggie Digiovanni

September 8, 2014

He stood frozen in fear as thunder rumbling in the distance gradually moved closer. Trembling grew into shaking so severe it almost toppled his frail body. Chewy, our newest humane shelter addition, awakened to the sounds of his enemy growing near while I was out of the room.

He, my other shelter baby Little Bit, and I had settled in my bedroom. They slept in their beds while I worked on new articles at my desk. Sensing the storm rising, I left to pull a flashlight from the remaining moving boxes in the garage. That’s when Chewy woke.

Hoping I was only a few feet away in the bathroom, he scooted in only to find his safety net missing. He hadn’t the courage to go any further. I scooped him into my arms as his quivering legs gave way. Gathering Little Bit in the other arm, I settled all of us on the living room sofa to ride out the storm.

I checked with Chewy’s vet to see if anything could be done to ease his fear. She recommended a light sedative to calm him down without knocking him out. If I got it to him before the thunder rang too loud, it worked. However, in instances such as today’s, it had no effect at all. His vet is prescribing a stronger one for times like this.

I can’t imagine the horror of his existence before coming to us. He was found wandering the streets. Where did he hide? How did he recover from the vicious storms Florida sometimes had with no pack, no family to comfort him? He is now content to let me be his alpha. That puts the onus on me to protect him the best I know how.

Easing his storm fears is primary in making his home comfortable. Pet owners have so many responsibilities. While we consider food, housing, bedding and fresh water, we sometimes ignore the other half of the equation – bringing the pet fully into his new pack by offering him the safety of the pack.

Although protecting him from bigger, meaner animals is part of our job, protecting them from cold, overheating, thunderstorms, floods, and other weather phenomena are often forgotten.

If a pet is left outside, is its house enough protection from the elements? Is it warm enough in the winter? Cool enough in the summer? On summer days, does it have a place too cool down – a kiddy pool of water or maybe ice put into drinking water? Sometimes rubbing the pads of the feet with ice cubes can cool a pet. Winter requirements are a warm bed, a dog house big enough for the pet, but small enough that body heat doesn’t escape easily. Better still, when it’s too cold for you outside, is it too cold for your pets?

Weather emergencies, such as floods, often find pets left behind to fend for themselves. Put a plan into place for them as you would for any other family member. When severe weather threatened in Florida, I put leashes on my pets to make it easier to move them to the car if necessary. Food, dishes, medications and bedding are packed for pets at the same time I pack emergency items for my daughter and me.

In our new home, we face new weather threats – tornadoes. Unlike their bigger cousins, hurricanes, twisters don’t give days of warnings before hitting a community. Getting to safety must be done within minutes if given any time at all.

The Humane Society offers seven steps to keep your pet safe in case of a tornado. Several of these are excellent suggestions for any emergency.

1) Bring pets indoors.
2) Keep emergency supplies in your shelter or cellar.
3) Make certain your pet has a collar and identification tag that is up to date.
4) Practice getting pets into a sheltered area.
5) Make tornado shelters safe by closing off places pets might get lost or stuck in.
6) If you must evacuate, take pet supplies with you.
7) After a tornado, your house may be very different and your pets skittish at the change. Be patient while gradually pulling them back into normal routines.

Primary in all instances is that your pets know they can depend on you to get through weather emergencies or any other type. Trust is absolutely necessary to maintain the respect as a pack alpha.

Author, Maggie Digiovanni Maggie Digiovanni



Guest blogger, Maggie Digiovanni, writes on many subjects.  She is published in books and in blogs and co-publishes, a site geared to those “of a certain age” who live in or just enjoy the Florida lifestyle.









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