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Storm Season is Coming: A Comprehensive Guide to Preparing Pets for Storm and Fireworks Season

The arrival of storm and fireworks season not only brings with it the awe-inspiring spectacles of nature but also the potential for stress and anxiety in our companion pets. As responsible pet owners, it is our duty to proactively prepare and protect our furry friends from the tumultuous effects of these events. Let’s explore how to provide a better environment for our pets to cope with the fear of storms and understand the role of medication in event-induced anxiety.

Understanding Pet Anxiety

To effectively prepare our pets for storm and fireworks season, it’s imperative to understand the signs of anxiety in animals. Dogs, cats, and other pets may exhibit behaviours such as pacing, panting, trembling, hiding, or vocalising when distressed. Recognizing these signs is the first step in addressing their anxiety and tailoring our preparations to their specific needs.

Some pets might notice the storm coming when the sun is still shining, and before you have the chance to act, so during this season, pay special attention to weather conditions and reports of storms. Many apps can send you alerts when severe storm events are approaching your area. Even pets that seemingly don’t present any signs of anxiety should be monitored. This is because we know that pets become fearful of storms; they aren’t born like that. As they experience stress and don’t understand what is happening during that time, they see the next storm coming as a potential threat. That leads to more and more anxiety every time a pet faces a storm, and it increases exponentially each time. It is a snowball effect that we can prevent or manage if we know what to do.

Creating a Safe Haven

Every pet deserves a sanctuary where they can seek refuge during stressful events. Identify a quiet, enclosed space within your home—preferably a room without windows or with minimal exposure to external noises. Equip this space with their favorite toys, a comfortable bed, and perhaps an item infused with your scent to provide a sense of familiarity and security. It is important that this space is available to your pet even when storms aren’t around. Your pet needs to have positive and calming experiences in that environment multiple times beforehand to be able to associate it with a peaceful place, similar to crate training.

Gradual Desensitisation

Introduce your pets to the sounds of storms and fireworks in a controlled environment to desensitise them to these potentially frightening noises. Start with low-volume recordings or videos and gradually increase the intensity over time. Positive reinforcement during these sessions, such as treats and affection, helps create a positive association with the sounds. Start with very low sounds on your phone next to your puppy; for example, you can use thunder or rumble noises or short strong noises of fireworks. Your dog needs to be able to hear these noises and still engage and prefer to have the treats or play. If your pet reacts to it and avoids taking the treat or playing, it means the noise is too loud for your dog yet. Remember to do this 3-4 times a week daily throughout the year, in sessions no longer than 10 minutes, separated from any other training sessions; otherwise, your pet might be too tired.

Calming Products and Techniques

Explore the array of calming products available for pets, ranging from anxiety wraps like ThunderShirts to calming pheromones, supplements, and other over-the-counter products. These products leverage gentle pressure, soothing scents to alleviate stress, and natural molecules that help maintain a certain level of serotonin in the brain. Additionally, consider incorporating relaxation techniques such as massage or gentle brushing into your pet’s routine during these seasons.

Products we recommend

  • Zylkene is a natural supplement derived from milk. It contains alpha-casozepine, a molecule derived from milk that is also responsible for the relaxation that babies get from breastfeeding. Zylkene comes in a capsule and is very palatable, accepted by nearly all dogs and cats.
  • Paw Complete Calm is a supplement that contains Tryptophan, the base molecule for making more serotonin, the happy hormone. It also contains Vitamin B and other nutrients to help reduce anxiety. Paw Complete Calm comes in a chewable tablet and can be given to dogs of all ages.
  • Adaptil Collar comes impregnated with Dog Appeasing Pheromones, a natural chemical that dogs use to communicate with each other. When dogs are exposed to it, they feel more relaxed and calm, reducing their stress and anxiety.
  • Feliway is also a Pheromone, but this one is specific to cats. It also communicates relaxation and calmness and should be used in any situation that can cause stress and anxiety in cats.

Remember that all these products take time to work and must be given in the week leading up to storm and fireworks season. This is because it takes a while for our pet’s brain to elevate the levels of serotonin and other hormones that cause relaxation. We recommend using a combination of these products leading up to and throughout the summer season. You never know when storms are going to hit you or your neighbours are going to throw a last-minute party!

Speak with an Experienced Veterinarian

In cases of severe anxiety, seeking professional advice is crucial. If your pet presents severe signs of anxiety when they hear loud noises or even with the smallest drop in the barometer, these products and techniques will not be enough to make them relax. Severe signs of anxiety during an episode are:

Physical signs:

  • Dilated pupils and elevated or pinned back ears
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Tail tucked under their bodies
  • Defecating and/or urinating
  • Plucked hair
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Piloerection (hairs on their back go up)

Behavior Signs:

  • Digging in the yard, scratching their bed
  • Barking that won’t stop
  • Running away or escaping the yard
  • Chewing objects, furniture, gates, fences
  • Hissing and scratching
  • Hiding under the bed or other places
  • Seeking attention constantly

These signs can last longer than the event itself; that is because it takes a long time for cortisol and adrenaline to be eliminated from their body. In fact, it can take 48h for your pet to fully eliminate cortisol from their bodies after stressful events. In these cases, we must provide a short and effective way to prevent and manage their fear with the use of medication.

Thanks to advances in science and the development of many chemicals, we have many medicines that are safe and effective. The goal of intervention with medication is to allow the pet to reduce its anxiety while still being able to interact with the family. We don’t want to heavily sedate these pets to the point they need veterinary monitoring; you can expect your pet to be able to walk, eat, drink, toilet, sleep, and be very comfortable. Sometimes they might look a little drunk and walk slowly or sideways, but with that, they’ll be feeling the extra level of happy hormones in their brain and body!

After a thorough consultation and physical examination, an experienced vet can select the best medications for your pet. Unfortunately, there are medications that have been used in the past that are no longer recommended for storm and noise phobia. Acepromazine, a yellow little tablet that was widely used in the past, has been shown to actually increase anxiety but suppress the physical signs of it.

If your pet is experiencing severe anxiety around storms and fireworks and trying a medication that has not worked, please discuss this with an experienced veterinarian again. Sometimes it is a matter of trying another medication or changing the dose and timing of giving the tablet. Most of the time, we can get it right on the first appointment; sometimes, we need to try a few more things before settling on the right medication and dose.

Identification and Safety Measures


Prioritise the safety of your pet by ensuring their identification tags are up to date, including a current contact number. Microchipping provides an added layer of security in case your pet gets lost during a storm. Familiarise yourself with local shelters and emergency services so you can quickly locate your pet if they happen to wander off. Unfortunately, many pets manage to run away when a storm hits, especially when no one is home to attend to them. This is a common event responsible for car accidents that end up in the emergency room. If you can, contact your neighbours or family members who might be able to visit your pet before you get back to the house. Another great tip is to install cameras to monitor your pet’s behaviour, especially if they stay outdoors.

Remaining Calm as a Guardian


Pets often mirror their owner’s emotions, so maintaining a calm demeanour during storms or fireworks is crucial. Be a reassuring presence for your pet, offering gentle strokes and soft-spoken reassurances. Your composed attitude can significantly influence their perception of the situation.

Preparing our pets for storm and fireworks season requires a thoughtful and multifaceted approach. By understanding their anxiety, creating safe havens, and utilising a combination of desensitisation, calming products, positive reinforcement, and medication when necessary, we can ensure our pets navigate these challenging seasons with minimal stress. As responsible guardians, our commitment to their well-being extends beyond the basics to encompass the emotional and psychological dimensions of their lives. In doing so, we strengthen the bond that makes the human-pet relationship so uniquely rewarding.