noise anxiety

  • Summer Storm Safety

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    As we are all aware, summertime storms can cause MAJOR anxiety and stress in our dogs and cats. And, it’s just about that time of year when super storms and hurricanes begin to arrive. Using a Thundershirt is an excellent way to calm your dog or cat should heavy winds, thunder and rain begin to pick up. In addition to using a ThunderShirt, here are a few more tips to keep in mind should heavy storms and troublesome weather arrive:

    • A permanent pet ID such as microchip is advised to help you locate your pet in case they get lost.
    • Keep pets inside and monitor them when the go out for bathroom breaks, at times, storms can spook pets into running away.
    • Photograph each pet and store these pictures with other important documents in sealed/waterproof plastic bags.
    • Make sure that your pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations. Boarding kennels typically require proof of current vaccinations.
    • During a storm, you can play pet-friendly, classical music, or even run a load of dishes or laundry. The calming or familiar noise may be relaxing to your pets.
    • Also, have your pets’ favorite toy, blanket and/or bed nearby during a severe storm.
    • Try not to scold a scare pet as it may confuse them and reinforce fearful behaviors.

    We hope you have a safe and calming storm season!

  • Guest Blogger: Mikkel Becker!

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    We’re thrilled to have well-known and respected pet behavior and training expert, and Vetstreet.com contributor, Mikkel Becker back on our blog today! She’s talking summer storm season and pet anxiety. Take it away, Mikkel!

    Thunderstorm phobia is a common fear I address in dog training. Countless canines suffer every year when summer storm season hits. Symptoms of fear include panting, pacing, increased salivation, whining, shaking, hyper vigilance, looking overly sleepy, lip licking, furrowed brows, the whites of their eyes showing and shadowing their owner or attempting to hide or flee. Although the external signs of fear vary amongst individual dogs, the internal state of distress the dog experiences cannot be ignored.

    While logically there’s little danger involved for a dog kept indoors during a lightning storm, there’s no reasoning a canine out of their fear. The fear is very real to that dog, and without intervention, the fear not only remains for most dogs, but grows stronger with time. Fear is a motivator in the natural survival response for the animal to move themselves away from a perceived threat and into a safe place. Dogs are wired to avoid dangerous situations and flee danger for self-preservation. Loud booms and flashes of light are two such stimulus’ that dogs are wired to flee from, rather than run to, for survival. There is also the likelihood of a genetic influence, as studies have shown that certain tendencies, such as fear of numerous noises and separation anxiety, are linked to the fear of thunderstorms.

    Ongoing fear decreases a dog’s quality of life and impacts even internal functions, like debilitating their body’s immune system. Dogs are also at risk for injury or worse when they panic, as they may hurt themselves when attempting to escape or when running in a blind panic. It’s not only traumatic for a dog to experience ongoing fear, but it’s stressful to the pet parent who feels helpless to calm their pet.

    Though our dogs can’t help the fearful state they’re naturally in with thunderstorms, as loving pet parents, we have the ability to help our pets. Dogs don’t need to suffer needlessly. With just a few changes, a dog’s fear of thunderstorms can be drastically decreased or taken away all together.

    Here are the top recommendations I offer to pet parents when training their dog to relax during storms.

    The first tool I recommend to owners is the ThunderShirt. The ThunderShirt is essential, as it instantly calms the dog in a non-invasive manner. The gentle pressure of the ThunderShirt increases feel good endorphins and is similar to the comfort a baby experiences when swaddled. Pressure has a calming effect on animals, as made famous by Temple Grahndin in her work of transferring the calming effects of pressure on cattle to other uses, such as decreasing anxiety for people with autism. The effects of pressure have likewise been shown to calm dogs.

    The ThunderShirt is essential, because the wrap has immediate results for calming the dog with no prior training needed. The ThunderShirt works in about 80% of canines, thus it’s the most effective and natural tool to decrease anxiety in dogs. If the dog is in an overly panicked state, other methods may be used to no avail when a storm hits, because the dog is already so over threshold, they are not receptive to reinforcement. When dogs are panicked, even activities they would normally do without hesitation, such as eating a treat or playing with a ball are denied, because the dog is too fearful to respond. Fear also inhibits learning; with animals most receptive to learning when they are in a relaxed state. The ThunderShirt is my go-to tool as it calms a dog and brings them to an emotional state where they are receptive to learning and can receive rewards to help build a positive association with the storm.

    Once the dog’s emotional state has been brought to a better baseline, there are additional tactics I use. One of my favorite solutions is to create a thunder room in the house. A thunder room should have the feeling of a hide-away where the dog can escape to and should be somewhat insulated from outside noise. A roomy closet or bathroom is ideal. Static electricity may build up in a dog’s coat during a storm, thus keeping the dog on hard floors rather than carpet and using dryer sheets to rub over the dog’s fur is helpful. Music can be calming for dogs and drowns out noise. For best results, play music loud enough to drown out some of the booms from the thunder, with classical music shown to have the greatest relaxation effect. The blinds should also be kept closed in the house, as flashes of light can be frightening for canines if they happen to catch a glimpse.

    Your dog should also be given training to associate the storm with good things happening to change their emotional baseline. For a play focused dog that enjoys fetch or structured tug, start a game as soon as the storm hits and continue throughout. Keep in mind you may want to play these games inside while sheltered from the elements and the loud noise. For other dogs, the storm should be associated with delectable treats. Each time the thunder hits, immediately deliver a piece of high value reward, such as boiled chicken or turkey hotdog. You can also use the storm to refocus your dog on another activity they deeply enjoy, such as trick training or giving them a stuffed food puzzle. Another less thought of but effective tool is to get a dog into a different state by triggering a behavior that’s innate in a dog. Use a chase toy, such as a fishing pole with a toy on the end to get your dog involved in a game of chase, or even race off a few steps yourself and reward your dog with a treat for following. You can also howl or bark, potentially triggering other dogs in your household if present, and starting a group howl. The chase or howl may break the cycle of fear even for a moment as a different area of the brain is engaged, where at that point the dog can be refocused onto another activity, such as eating their tasty treats.

    In addition, consider daily exercise for your dog as it boosts serotonin levels, a regulator of mood, and releases other feel good endorphins that build a dog’s resiliency. Exercise also provides a productive outlet for pent up energy that will help a dog relax more during the rest of their day. During the summer, dogs should be exercised regularly during the cool parts of the day with the amount of exercise needed depending upon the dog’s age, breed and energy level. Dogs should be exercised preemptively before a storm hits.

     

  • Tips to Keep Your Pets Calm on 4th of July

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    Check out this video of our tips for the 4th of July:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJr3Ls5RdQI&feature=c4-overview&list=UUuIymvC4yigIVyLy_srg25g

  • Wishing you a “Thunderful” 4th of July! Now, let’s have a treat!

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    What a better of a way to include out pets in on the patriotic fun than to whip up these delicious red white and blue treats!

    We found this recipe from one of our favorite bloggers, Sugar the Golden Retriever and thought they make the perfect cool and summery treat for our favorite four-legged pals!

    Frosty Yogurt Berries Bone Parfait

    treats

    Ingredients

    ~1 tablespoon of Greek Yogurt

    ~1 tablespoon of Plain Yogurt

    ~2 teaspoon of fresh blackberries juice (=3 pieces of blackberries)

    4 x-small pieces of strawberries

    1 teaspoon of homemade toasted coconut honey oats (using old fashion oats, coconut oil and honey)

    Directions

    Use a Bone cookie cutter as a mold. Place it on a flat surface. We used a clear plate.

    1. Pour into the mold ~ 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt.* Freeze it for about an hour.

    *This is the first time we used Greek yogurt for frosty paw recipe. It does not freeze well unlike the regular plain yogurt.*

    2. Pour ~2 teaspoons of the fresh blackberries juice. Smashed blackberries can be added too. Freeze it for about 20 to 30 minutes.

    3. Place little pieces of strawberries.

    4. Pour ~1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Freeze it for 20 minutes.

    5. Place the tasted oats on top. Freeze it for another 10-15 minutes.

     

    Image via

  • Guest Blogger: Sandy Robins!

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    We asked our friend, award-winning author and respected Pet Lifestyle Expert, Sandy Robins  to share her best advice for traveling this summer with cats... Take it away, Sandy!

    Sandy and Cat

     

    With the travel season around the corner, if you are planning a vacation, now is the time to make arrangements for your pets.

    When it comes to cats, most felines are homebodies and don’t really like a change in their domestic situation. So unless you have a reliable family member, friend or licensed pet sitter who can move in and keep them company, or you are comfortable checking them into a pet hotel, its important to make proper plans for them to travel with you too.

    When making travel arrangements for feline family members, it’s a good idea to purchase a second carrier so that your cat can differentiate between vacation travel and trips to the vet. Purchase the carrier at least a month in the advance and leave it lying around the house for her to discover on her own. Cats like to be in charge of their territory!

    If you are traveling by plane, be sure that the carrier meets your airline’s in-cabin specifications. And, further, be sure to make a reservation. Only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight and you don’t want to arrive to discover that they have filled the pet quota for your flight.

    Even if your feline has sniffed out her carrier, traveling in it can be a scary experience because of the movement and the unfamiliar noises both at an airport and on the road. Also, remember vision from inside the carrier is obscured which can make a cat very uncomfortable.

    An excellent way of dealing with any travel-induced apprehension would be to put a ThunderShirt  on your feline while she is in transit to ease her anxiety and related stress. The ThunderShirt works on the principle mothers have used for centuries of  “wearing their babies” in a sling or blanket strapped close to the body so that the baby feels secure and bonded with the parent. Cat behaviorists say that this principle works well with cats too.

    But in the same way that the carrier should be left lying around the home for a good few weeks before travel, it’s a good idea to let your cat wear the shirt around the home in advance of the actual excursion. Some cats freeze when any form of clothing is put on them. Start with very short intervals and slowly extend the duration.

    Also be sure to give her treats when it’s on so that she associates the garment with something good! The ThunderShirt comes in different sizes. Be sure to size it correctly because although you want the swaddling effect, you certainly don’t want it too tight!

    Further, whether you are traveling by plane or car make sure that your cat has access to water at all times. It’s a good idea to freeze a bowl of water in advance of travel so that your cat can lick the ice as it melts. This also prevents spillage inside the carrier. It’s also a good idea to add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to the water bowl to further keep your furry passenger calm. Most veterinarians will recommend this over any kind of tranquilizer as pills can wear off and disorient your pet even more. Not to mention that any travel delays en route will only further exacerbate the problem.

    Cats are very clean animals and get stressed if their environment is not clean. So be sure to line her carrier with a puppy pee pad so that if she has an accident, the pad will absorb the mishap and leave the surface of the pad dry. There are also portable litter boxes if you are traveling by road.

    Whether you are staying with family or friends or checking into an hotel, it’s a good idea to let your feline wear her ThunderShirt at her destination to further settle her anxiety of being in unfamiliar surroundings. And, if you are traveling to a part of the country that experiences severe thunder storms, once again the shirt will come in handy.

    Finally, never leave home without ensuring that your cat is micro chipped, her information registered with the company’s database and also ensure she is wearing a collar with an ID tag with up-to-date information. It’s important to double up because people will look at an ID tag first. But collars can come off. That’s where the microchip will kick in. Remember proper identification is a lost cat’s ticket home.

     

    -Sandy Robins

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