Few things in life are more pleasurable than taking a stroll with your dog on a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the wind is refreshing, and the cloudless sky is a deep blue. If only nature were always that welcoming and fair. But nature has ways of reminding us that we are not always in charge. However, we can predict and plan for many of nature’s turnarounds, so it’s up to us as dog lovers to help prepare our pets for those events.
Thunderstorms are the most common way that nature has to rattle a dog’s nerves. In fact, your dog may become agitated even before you realize that a storm is approaching. That’s because, with their keen ears, canines can hear at much higher and lower frequencies than we do. So they can hear a faraway rumble of thunder that you might miss. In addition, a dog's sensitive nose can detect odors much better than yours. Since lightning ionizes air with the formation of ozone—which has a characteristic metallic smell—it's possible that dogs detect this odor, or some other odor, associated with the storm.
If your dog becomes agitated before the storm arrives, imagine how he feels—with his ultra-sensitive ears—when the thunder starts pounding on your home. As tempted as you might be to pick up your dog or coddle him when the rumbling gets loud, it's better to distract him. Using a happy, upbeat tone of voice, talk to your dog and invite him to play with you. Keep some treats or rewards on hand to reward him for focusing on the games. You should also create a "safe place" for your dog to hide out during the storm. Whether it's a crate with a soft pillow inside or a bed to hide under, it should be a comfortable place far away from any windows where the noise is loudest. If your dog's thunder phobia is more severe, consult your veterinarian. He may recommend medication or a specific behavioral program to help alleviate your dog's fears.
There are many reasons why earthquakes are so feared: they can be fierce, sudden, and leave a wake of long-term destruction. If you live in a quake-prone region, make sure you have on hand an adequate supply of fresh water, dog food, and any medications your dog may need. If you haven’t already done so, identify the safest and strongest place in your home where you and your dog can take shelter. If your dog is crate-trained, he may be a little more comfortable in his crate when the earth starts rumbling.
Because earthquakes can destroy walls and fences, dogs have been known to escape their homes and begin wandering. That’s just one more good reason to make sure your dog has proper identification, such as a collar and tag and an implanted microchip.
If you try to leave an area after an earthquake, remember that power lines may have become loose. If the power is still flowing, this could cause an extremely serious hazard if you dog comes into contact with the stray electricity. And keep this in mind: powerful aftershocks can cause more rounds of damage. So, if possible, wait for help to come while you and your dog remain in the most secure part of your home.
Floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes
Unlike earthquakes, which are sudden, there is usually some warning given when floods, hurricanes, and twisters are imminent. That gives you the opportunity to prepare for an evacuation. But, sometimes, evacuation isn’t possible.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it became common to see news footage of pets and people clinging to the roofs of homes surrounded by rising floodwater. That was, thankfully, an extreme and rare case. But even less severe floods can create life-threatening situations. The better you prepare, the better the chance your pet will come through it okay. And if you live in a flood- or twister-prone area, you can prepare right now by creating an “evacuation kit.” In an easy-to-carry waterproof bag or duffle, place some of your dog’s favorite food and treats, a bottle of fresh water, some of his toys, a supply of his medicine, copies of his medical/vaccination records, a recent photo of your dog, and—if your dog has had a microchip implanted under his skin—a copy of the identification number. If your dog is small enough to fit in a portable carrier, keep this in a handy place.
News reports can keep you apprised of the severity of an impending hurricane or flood, so keep your TV or radio tuned to the local news. And if evacuation is imminent, don’t waste time—take your dog and your evacuation kit to a safer area.
If you are not able to evacuate a flood in time, bring your dog, your evacuation kit, and clean bedding to the highest part of your home. Keep a battery-operated radio (and plenty of batteries) and your cell phone by your side. Try your best to keep your dog calm and ration food and water if it appears that it might be awhile before help arrives.
Tornadoes can strike more suddenly than hurricanes or floods, but their impact—though severe—is usually restricted to a smaller area. That’s no consolation if your home happens to be in the path of a raging funnel cloud.
If tornado sirens go off and you cannot make a safe evacuation, take your dog and your evacuation kit to the safest room of your home. This is usually a basement or an interior room or bathroom. If you plan to use your basement as a tornado shelter, bring your dog there when the weather is fair. Help him feel comfortable in this unaccustomed environment by playing with him. You can even leave some of his bedding in the basement shelter so he’ll feel at home there if a tornado strikes. During a fierce storm, the calmer you are, the calmer your dog could be. And vice versa.