Sunday, 16 December 2018
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How to calm dogs during thunderstorms

Storm season can be a scary time for dogs.

Loud thunder and the crack of lightning can put them in an anxious state, and sometimes the most gentle animals can be sent into a frenzy destroying everything from the furniture to security screens.

In Queensland, storm season runs from October to April, meaning that for half the year you’ll need to make extra provisions to keep your pet feeling safe and secure, and minimise any destructive behaviour that may occur.

The most important thing is to make sure pets have easy access to a protected area away from the rain, wind, hail and lightning.

Also ensure they are adequately enclosed, as many pets escape from the yard during a storm and can become lost or injured.

Many dogs fear thunder as they do not understand what it is or did not encounter it as puppies. It can be perceived as a threatening noise, similar to fireworks or gunshots.

Dogs may also be fearful of changes in air pressure and static electricity associated with storms.

Eight-week-old Australian Shepherd, Throttle, escapes the wind between two Old English Sheepdog toys. Picture: Tony Gough

Eight-week-old Australian Shepherd, Throttle, escapes the wind between two Old English Sheepdog toys. Picture: Tony Gough

There are lots of ways you can help calm your dog during a storm.

It’s perfectly OK to reassure dogs by patting, holding or talking to them – this will not positively reinforce the anxious behaviour as was previously believed.

Giving your pet access to a safe, darkened, confined space such as a pet crate, small room or under a table can also help settle it. Synthetic pheromone diffusers, sprays and collars may be useful, as can a tight coat called a thunder jacket, or calming music – there are even pet-specific playlists available.

Medications, both natural and prescription, play a pivotal role in managing storm phobia in many pets.

Your vet can provide advice on different training techniques to use and prescribe medications to help manage your pet’s fear and keep it safe.

Also, be prepared for extreme weather conditions.

Make sure your dog is registered and microchipped and be sure to include pet food and medication your pet takes in your emergency kit.

A Guide Dog puppy. Picture: Jonathan Ng

A Guide Dog puppy. Picture: Jonathan Ng

Question: I’d like to look after a guide dog puppy. Can you take me through all the considerations, the positives and negatives, I need to think about?

Answer: Guide Dog Puppy Raisers care for puppies from around eight weeks until they’re 16-18 months old. During this time you will need to take your puppy with you everywhere so it becomes well socialised. This is a big commitment to make but it will be equally rewarding. You would, of course, need to be prepared to part ways with your puppy when it’s ready to move on to the next phase of training.

Tick and flea treatment for a cat.

Tick and flea treatment for a cat.

Question: Both of my cats have fleas despite the monthly application of
a spot-on product. Should I apply it more frequently?

Answer: Most monthly spot-on treatments for cats treat heartworm and intestinal worms as well as providing reasonable treatment for fleas. In some cases, however, we use additional flea products to help control infestation. I’d recommend a monthly oral tablet specifically for fleas. There are also some newer flea and tick spot-on products available for cats that can provide protection for up to three months. Make sure the products you use are safe for cats as dog products can be highly toxic.

A sago palm, or cycad, which can be toxic to dogs when ingested.

A sago palm, or cycad, which can be toxic to dogs when ingested.

Question: I have several sago plants in my garden and my dog has not had any problems with them. Is it true they are dangerous?

Answer: Sago palms, or cycads, are highly toxic to dogs when ingested, causing liver failure, central nervous system damage and gastrointestinal irritation. All parts of the plant are toxic, with the seeds containing the highest concentration of toxin. Puppies tend to present for toxicity most commonly as they often chew on plants in the garden. Some dogs also check out the plants when owners dig them up or prune them.


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