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A family pet watching the storm through the window.

Veterinary Viewpoints: Severe weather and pets

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Media Contact: Kinsey Reed | Communications Specialist | 405-744-6740 |

Severe weather can pose significant risks to pets. Whether it's thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or extreme heat, these weather events can be distressing and dangerous for our animal companions. Here are some ways severe weather can impact pets and tips on how to keep them safe:

  1. Thunderstorms:
  • Anxiety: Many pets are afraid of thunderstorms due to the loud noises and changes in atmospheric pressure. Anxiety can cause them to hide, shake, or even try to escape.
  • Safety Tips: Create a safe space for your pet to retreat to during storms, like a covered crate or an interior room. Distract them with calming music or white noise and consider using anxiety-reducing products like compression shirts or pheromone sprays. Some pets may need extra help in the form of medications such as anxiolytics. You need to reach out to your vet ahead of time and be ready to medicate them before the storm hits.
  1. Hurricanes:
  • Evacuation: If you need to evacuate due to a hurricane, make sure you have a plan for your pets. Not all emergency shelters accept animals, so identify pet-friendly shelters or hotels in advance.
  • Emergency Kit: Prepare a pet emergency kit with food, water, medications, vet records and comfort items like toys or blankets. Keep it easily accessible in case of evacuation.
  1. Tornadoes:
  • Shelter: Designate a safe area in your home where you and your pets can take shelter during a tornado. Basements, storm cellars, or interior rooms without windows are ideal.
  • Identification: Ensure your pets are wearing collars with updated ID tags or are microchipped so they can be identified if they become lost during a tornado or other severe weather event.
  1. Extreme Heat:
  • Dehydration and Heatstroke: Pets can quickly become dehydrated or suffer from heatstroke in high temperatures. Signs include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy and collapse.
  • Prevention: Provide plenty of fresh water and shade for your pets during hot weather. Limit exercise during the hottest parts of the day and never leave your pet in a parked car, even for a short time. Last but not least, do not take dogs on walks during peak heat as the asphalt can burn their footpads.
  1. Flooding:
  • High Ground: In areas prone to flooding, keep your pets indoors or on high ground. Fast-moving water can be extremely dangerous for animals.
  • Secure Areas: Ensure outdoor enclosures or fences are secure to prevent pets from escaping during flooding events.

General Tips:

  • Stay Informed: Stay in tune with weather forecasts and warnings in your area. Knowing when severe weather is expected can help you prepare and keep your pets safe.
  • Emergency Contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including your veterinarian and local animal control, readily available.
  • Training: Consider training your pets to come when called and to be comfortable with carriers or leashes. This can be invaluable in emergency situations. Noise desensitization training can be done to avoid an animal panicking during a severe weather event.

Remember, your pets rely on you for their safety and well-being, especially during severe weather events. Taking the time to prepare and plan ahead can make a significant difference in keeping them safe and calm during these challenging times.

About the author: Dr. Leticia Fanucchi is a Clinical Assistant Professor and head of the Behavior Service at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species, as well as emergency care. Call 405-744-7000 for an appointment or see more information at

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