Recognizing a problem exists is the first step in correcting the issue. Some animals show very overt signs of anxiety including having accidents in the house, excessive panting or drooling, being very clingy or perhaps isolating themselves in a closet or small room. Other signs may be more subtle such as decreased appetite or being less interaction/playful than usual. Anxiousness may start several hours prior to a storm or other loud event and effects may linger for several days in severe cases.
There are several options for treating phobias. In mild cases, environmental modification is often enough to keep your pet comfortable during events. Options like thundershirts or compression vests make some pets feel more comfortable and can be used for any stressful situation - including trips to the vet! Over-the-counter DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) diffusers or sprays can create a calming environment (Feliway is the kitty version!). Creating a "cave" or secluded area can also create a secure feeling for your pet. Fix your pet's normal bed in a small closet, bathtub, or other interior, enclosed space to reduce noise and visual stimuli such as lightening or firework flashes. Give a special treat such as a peanut butter filled Kong to provide a distraction and play music or turn on the tv to help block sounds. If your pet does not want to be left alone, try engaging them in a fun game of fetch for distraction. Avoid constantly petting your dog or snuggling them as this may inadvertently reinforce the phobia behavior!
If the above steps don't work, medical therapy may be needed. There are several prescription medications that can help with severe phobias. Screening blood work and a behavioral consultation is needed to make sure the drugs will be safe and appropriate for your pet's behavior. With these severe cases our goal is to reduce signs of anxiety, as completely eliminating them is very difficult and may be impossible.