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Are you and your pets ready for big storms?

There are two types of severe storms that pet owners should be aware of, both of which are on the rise and can be dangerous. The first type of storm, tornadoes, which may also be called twisters, are funnel clouds or violently rotating columns of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground.


The second type goes by several names: hurricane in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific Oceans, typhoon in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, and cyclone in the South Pacific and the Indian Oceans. These storms bring extremely high winds and heavy rains, and sometimes spawn tornados, increasing their potential for severe damage.

© FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin

What to do to be ready for a tornado

There are two fundamentals of being ready for a tornado:


  1. Know what to do when there is a threat of tornados touching down in your area
  2. Always have a disaster kit ready for all types of emergencies so your pet will have food, medicine, some comfort items and safe drinking water. You can learn how to put your kit together by reading our brochure: What to do during a disaster: A guide for you and your pet.


Once you have your plan and kit in place, the next step is to practice your response. When there is a tornado warning, it is important to get to a secure place, ideally a basement or other underground shelter with few or no windows. If this is not possible, go to the lowest level of the building and find a place in or near its center, preferably without windows. Closets may serve this purpose.


Once you have decided on your shelter, take your pet and your kit and spend some time there so your pet will be used to the place and the process won’t seem strange or scary to them. This will also give you the chance to see what problems there might be with your chosen place.


Finally, be sure you have a means of communication that doesn’t require power as these storms regularly destroy above ground power lines.

What to do to be ready for a typhoon

Preparation for hurricanes is similar to that for tornadoes except that the heavy rains and high waves, if you are on the coast, make flooding a much greater danger. These storms are more predictable so there is often the option to evacuate. Take this option if it is recommended and have a plan for where you will go after evacuating. Many shelters don’t take pets due to health and safety concerns, but in some places, animal rescue groups set up pet shelters near human shelters. Find out what is available in your area if you don’t have friends or family to go to when you evacuate.


If you are staying at home, a safe room is once again important to protect you and your pets from wind blown debris and broken windows. But if you live in a low-lying area that is prone to flooding your safe room, you will need to be above ground. Once again it is important to get your pets used to the safe area by spending time there.

© FOUR PAWS | Elisabeth Blum

What about storm phobia?

Some pets may develop a serious fear of storms. Dogs who have other noise phobia or separation anxiety are more prone to this problem. Signs include:

  • Nervousness and/or trembling
  • Drooling or panting
  • Vocalizing and/or pacing
  • Trying to hide, trying to escape, or seeking attention
  • Frantically attacking doors or walls, or other objects


These phobias are not easily treated but there are a few things to be aware of when dealing with a phobic pet.


First, it is better to use distractions, such as a favorite toy or game or using commands to give the dog something to concentrate on besides the weather, rather than petting or coddling to comfort them as this often reinforces their fears. In the short term it may be necessary to medicate your pet to prevent escapes, injuries and/or damage to your home.


Second, many pets are helped by having a ‘safe place’ to go to when they feel a storm approaching. This may be the basement or a covered crate where they don’t see lightning flashes and the sounds of the storm are muted.  This safe place should always be available to them, even if you are not home. Work with your veterinarian and/or a qualified animal behavior specialist to develop a desensitization plan for your pet before the phobia gets worse.

Prepare before storm season starts

If you live in an area that is prone to severe storms, it pays to make preparations before storm season starts. It is frightening enough to be faced with severe weather without having to worry about collecting everything you need for your pets at the last minute. You may also be a little calmer knowing you have done everything you can do to protect yourself and your pets. If you are calmer, your pets will be calmer as well.