Dogs struggle with storms

The recent heavy weather in Cayman
has been tough on pets in Cayman, according to the Cayman Islands Humane
Society.

Many of the recent arrivals at the
Humane Society shelter are found with collars on, which means that they have
owners and have been cared for.

“We have a lot of strays lately and
I think they have been frightened by thunderstorms and run away,” said Twila
Escalante, shelter liaison and director for the Humane Society.

“Recently, with all the
thunderstorms and rain, a lot of dogs were rescued from the streets by caring
members of the public and most were wearing collars,” she said.

According to Dr. Brenda Bush of
Island Veterinary Services, this is a regular occurrence during storm season.

“Unfortunately, we see this very
commonly as a lot of dogs have storm phobia. Some dogs get scared and attempt
to find a safe, closed-in space, while some will be more proactive and
aggressively try to get out,” said Ms Bush.

Humane Society population increases

The Humane Society shelter has seen
a steady increase in the number of dogs housed there since late June, with the
shelter currently over capacity. This places a lot of strain on the facilities
and finances of the Society and also makes it much harder for dogs to find a
new home.

Dogs often find a space where they
feel safe during a storm, for example under a bed, in a closet or in a corner.
Should their safe space not be accessible, dogs may be driven to search for a
new safe space elsewhere and could leave the yard in their search. This is
especially easy for dogs that are allowed to roam free from unenclosed yards.

The likelihood of a dog running
away is exacerbated when the dog’s owners are on vacation and leave the dog in
the care of someone else.

“Any kind of change in normal
routine could probably do that. When owners are not there, it could exacerbate
the phobia as the dog bonds with them and trusts them. If a dog is phobic and
is left with a pet sitter, there should be a long conversation with the sitter
to explain the dos and don’ts,” said Ms Bush.

According to Ms Escalante, pet
owners need to be more proactive when it comes to keeping their pets safe and
should start looking for their pets right away once the pet goes missing.

“If the dogs are running away,
owners should provide shelter for them either indoors or a doghouse. Owners can
secure their yards or a section of their yards and this would keep the dogs
safe and confined,” said Ms Escalante.

However, confining a dog in too
small a space or chaining it up during a storm could result in injury to the
animal if it panics and attempts to escape. Dangers can also go beyond
self-inflicted injuries.

“It is dangerous to have dogs
chained and outside during a thunderstorm especially with the fierce lightening
we have been having lately, as there is a risk that the dog could be
electrocuted,”
said Ms Escalante.

If a dog panics and runs out of the
yard, it is also exposed to many other dangers.

“Some run blindly into the street,
so we see a lot of car trauma. Some dogs also seek shelter under cars and are
rolled over when the owner moves the car,” said Ms Bush.

There are numerous steps dog owners
can take to keep their pets safe and comfortable during thunderstorms.

Steps owners can take

According to Ms Bush, the most
important thing owners can do is to ensure that their dogs have a collar with
an ID, or ideally a microchip, especially if the dog might inclined to run
away.

Creating a space where the dog feels
safe can also be a great help to a dog with storm phobia. Ms Bush suggests
creating a ‘cave’ with blankets or curtains around it so the dog can hide there
without being disturbed by the flashes of lightning. However, in order to make
the most of such a space, it is important to introduce the dog to it when there
are no storms around.

“Put them in there when they aren’t
afraid and give them toys and treats in there so that it becomes their happy
place. Then when a storm comes they are likely to retreat to the happy place
and feel safe there,” she said.

According to Ms Bush, dogs that
shelter indoors can be calmed by bringing out a favourite toy or blanket and
even spraying a certain scent in the air, also best done when there is not a
storm around. Then when a storm approaches, bringing out the toy and spraying
the scent in the air is likely to calm the dog.

However, not all dogs can be helped
by conditioning them and modifying their environment.

“Some dogs actually need medication
because their phobia is just too intense,” said Ms Bush.

There are herbal options that
contain calming herbs which can help some dogs, while others may require
sedatives. However, it is vital to consult a veterinarian before deciding to
medicate your dog.

The Humane Society is appealing for
owners whose dogs are missing to visit the shelter, located next to AL
Thompson’s on North Sound Road, as their pets may have ended up there. It is
also appealing for anyone who might be able to assist the organisation by
adopting a dog or offering any other assistance to contact the shelter at
949-1461.

LOCALdogsSTORY

There are many dogs at the Humane Society looking for a home.
Photo: Eugene Bonthuys
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1 COMMENT

  1. Pet overpopulation problems are a result of human irresponsibility. The homeless animals are creatures created by God and deserve humane treatment. Please open your home for adoption and please spay and neuter your animals. These are the easist options to save lifes and to reduce the overpopulation problem in Cayman. Thank you for printing today’s article to increase awareness to this issue at hand.

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