Advice for big dog with thunderstorm fears

Our question this week was:

Hi Dr. Debra,

I have a 125 to 130 pound male dog that freaks out with thunderstorms. What is the safe dose of melatonin to try, and how effective is this? The dog is in good health and on no other medications. The age is five.

Peter Grottini


Hi – thanks for your email. Thunderstorm phobia is relatively common in some dogs. Any as you know, they can be very difficult to deal with. When a big dog is in the house pacing and anxious – it can be painful to watch and difficult to deal with. Some dogs can also become descructive as they can claw, scatch or dig through doors, walls or screens.

The simplest thing you can do is to try to block out the noise with other noises such as the radio, TV, fan or other “white noise” items. Also offering a comfortable place for your dog to hide also gives him comfort. This can work for some dogs but won’t for dogs that are severely affected with storm phobias.

Another way to deal with thunderstorm phobias is desensitization. This involves replicating the noise by tape recording a storm and then exposing your relaxed dog to the noise at low volume. You can then increase the volume gradually, taking care not to cause your dog to become fearful. A veterinarian or behaviorist can help you design an appropriate program. However, this is not very effective to be honest. If it works, it is idea.

However, because this doesn’t work that well, many pet owner turn to drug therapies. Drugs commonly used include Acepromazine which is a tranquilizer, Clorazepate, and/or Dog Appeasing Pheromone which is a natural agent. Melatonin can also be used. I’d talk to your veterinarian about which might be best.

In your email, you asked for the dose of melatonin. I can tell you that melatonin is dosed as follows: