Thunderstorm phobia is a disorder in which there is persistent and exaggerated fear of storms, or the stimuli associated with storms. To treat this condition, your veterinarian should have some grasp of pathophysiology, as this phobia involves physiologic, emotional, and behavioral components.
Thunderstorm phobia occurs in both dogs and cats, but dogs are often more susceptible to this type of fear. If you would like to learn more about how this condition affects cats, please visit this page in the petMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
Stimuli that elicit fear include rain, lightning thunder, strong winds, and possibly changes in barometric pressure and static electricity. This fear may then induce one of more of the following signs:
- Hiding/remaining near the owner
- Excessive salivation (ptyalism)
- Excessive vocalization
- Self-inflicted trauma
- Fecal incontinence
It may also affect some body systems in a variety of ways, including:
- Endocrine/ metabolic—increased cortisol levels, stress-induced hyperglycemia
- Gastrointestinal—inappetence, gastrointestinal upset
- Musculoskeletal—self-induced trauma resulting from escape attempts
- Nervous—adrenergic/nor-adrenergic overstimulation
- Skin—acral lick dermatitis
The exact cause of thunderstorm phobia is unknown, but it may include a combination of the following factors:
- Lack of exposure to storms early in development
- Unintentional reinforcement of fear response by owner
- A genetic predisposition for emotional reactivity
A veterinarian will rule out any conditions which can cause similar behavioral responses such as separation anxiety, barrier frustration, and noise phobias. Otherwise, they will conduct further tests to identify any conditions or abnormalities that may have arisen from effect of the fear to the thunderstorm.