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Weather and animals

By Catherine Twing
On November 23, 2016

Growing up with a weather phobia can be challenging. Because of my phobia, I have grown up obsessed with watching and learning about the weather. This blog is to share my experiences and discuss weather problems and situations in the U.S.

Up to this point I have talked about how weather affects humans, but how does it affect animals? Well it turns out animals can have weather phobias just like humans.

My golden retriever, Sarah, was so terrified of thunderstorms that as soon as she sensed a storm coming, (and yes, dogs can sense storms. More on that in a second.) she would shake uncontrollably. Like not just a little quiver-- full-on, close-to-seizure-level shaking. As soon as the storm ended she was fine.

On one occasion, we weren’t home and she ran upstairs, a place she wasn’t allowed, but tried to go when there were storms for reasons I don’t understand because I’m not a dog. When we got home, hours after the storm, she runs down the stairs and jumps on the couch and crosses her paws as if to say “you didn’t see anything.” So back to how dogs sense weather.

When a storm comes, barometric pressure drops. Humans can sometimes feel it through ears popping, headaches and bone aches (when people say they feel it in their bones). But dogs are super sensitive to this pressure and are aware of it much more than humans. Sharks are also able to feel a change in pressure and have been known to swim deeper before hurricanes.

Dogs can also identify the smell of lightning from miles away. You might not realize lightning has a smell, but you know that kind of metallic scent shortly before a storm, when people often say they can feel a storm coming? That’s ozone, what is produced when lightning reacts with the oxygen. It is further brought down to nose level by the drafts of a storm.

You’ve also probably noticed that cows lay down when rain is coming. It’s not proven that they lay down because of the rain itself, but cows lay down when they need to conserve heat, and sometimes it gets colder before a storm, so that’s the explanation.

So next time there’s a storm, as you’re frantically closing your windows and bringing things inside, give a thought to all the frightened dogs and cold cows experiencing this weather also. 


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