Talking Pets: Weathering storms of all kinds

June 29, 2012 

What a week it's been. So much rain, so much wind, so many things that go bump in the night.

How did your pets handle it?

Over the weekend, I had five dogs in my life. My two, a friend's dog who's bunking with us while he's on vacation, and two dogs I dog-sit for a friend who works a live-in caregiver job from Friday to Monday.

Whew!

Needless to say, it was challenging. None of them wanted to go outside, and who could blame them? We had to wait for a lull in the rain and then I would shoo them out to take care of business.

A few of them were a bit off their feed, too. While normally that might be cause for concern, sometimes dogs won't eat because they know it will just necessitate another trip out in the tempest.

Storms are among the most challenging times for pet families. A lot of dogs and cats suffer storm anxiety and it's hard to reassure them when you're feeling stress yourself.

One good thing about tropical storms is that there is usually very little lightning and thunder. That's a trigger point for a lot of pet stress as my Reba could tell you (if she could talk).

For run-of-the-mill summer storms, I've been thinking about getting her a Thundershirt. These pieces of apparel are not for show. They fit snugly, applying gentle pressure that devotees say has a calming effect on anxious dogs. They even make one for cats now, too.

If you haven't heard of them, the company's website, www.thundershirt.com, has a video that shows "before and after" with a dog who's scared of storms, the vacuum cleaner and even a soda can pop top.

And if you've tried a Thundershirt, I'd be curious to know what you think.

Another stressor for poor Reba was when the power went out early Monday morning. I woke up around 3:30 with a little black dog named Ella attached to my side. After I rolled her over so I could cool off, I noticed the ceiling fan was stopped. Reba must have noticed it too, because she got down and started wandering around in the dark.

I got my night-stand flashlight (it pays to keep one handy), and helped her find her way back to bed.

Here's another situation where the stress you feel can rub off on your pets. It's bad enough when they're looking at you like, "What the heck is going on?" So I did my best not to show my aggravation so they would not start their doggie worrying.

Remember, animals take their cue from you, so if you stay calm, they will, too.

Hopefully your family made it through the stormy weather in fine shape. Like me, maybe the worst you had to deal with was the power being out on top of the temporary wet dog smell, muddy paw prints and occasional whining.

The power comes back on (eventually), the coats dry, the paw prints wipe right up, and the whining stops. (Thank goodness for pop-tops on dog food cans.)

Another good resource

A few weeks ago I wrote about first-aid kits for pets. Another handy resource to have on hand is a good home veterinary handbook.

While it certainly won't take the place of a good family veterinarian, it's good to have for those times when a home remedy could do the trick.

I have a copy of Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, first published in 1980. It's now in its fourth edition, and has been updated with new information on topics such as raw diets and holistic treatments.

The same authors also publish a Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. This reference has also been updated with new information, including genetics and drug sensitivities.

For new pet families, home veterinary handbooks offer guidance on topics such as bathing, skin care, cleaning ears, trimming nails and dental care.

Oh, and for those of you who think books are, you know, old-fashioned, both these references are available on Kindle.

M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054.

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