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How the Thundershirt (for dogs with storm anxiety) Became Bowie's Best Friend

Updated on September 15, 2016

How it Started

Bowie is a lab mix that I adopted form the Humane Society after the vicious Hurricane Charley hit Southwest Florida on August 13th of 2004. Hundreds of animals were left wondering the streets after the storm and Bowie and brothers and sisters were among them. Aside from being riddled with health problems (stomach infections, mange, ear infections) it was clear after Bowie's first week home that thunderstorms were going to be a traumatizing experience each and every time. Who could blame him?!

"Please...just one tot!"

Allergies...Oh, the Allergies...

After all of his most severe health issues were taken care of, more problems started to emerge - problems that would have to be treated over his entire lifetime.

Allergies. And when I say allergies, I mean ALL allergies. Fleas, grass, certain shampoos, seasonal allergies, and to top it all off food allergies.

Most of this can be treated through medications and a change in diet, neither of which this now 9 year old boy is thrilled about. (He's extremely displeased that he can no longer eat tater tots...)

Red Paws on a Black Dog

For as long as I can remember, Bowie has always licked his paws. It always seemed to be when he was anxious or bored. Aside from making his owner crazy, the licking didn't seem to have any negative effects on his four little feet.

Late last year, Bowie and I moved across the state of Florida. That very first day of the move - the chewing started. Not only was he constantly licking his feet, the carpet and any furniture he was laying on, he was now gnawing on his pads and fingernails to the point of bleeding.

I tried everything from wiping his feet after walks, giving multiple baths, and even medication that seems to help the rest of his seasonal allergies. The only explanation was that the problem was mental and that he was OCD about the paw chewing.

Enter: The Thundershirt

Thundershirt = Magicshirt

Before skipping to any anti-anxiety medications I was told by a friend to try something else. Something much more simple that would treat several problems at once...

The Thundershirt.

I had seen the commercials and heard all about them for years, but Bowie's fear during thunderstorms had decreased over the past few years so I had never purchased one. My friend told me that their two Doberman's hated riding in the car. They would tear the seats, scratch at windows and howl until they were released from what they saw as their temporary mobile prison. That's when the owners decided to try the Thundershirt since they heard it helped with general dog anxiety. A few minutes before traveling, they would strap their pets into their cloth/velcro attire and watch as they slowly became relaxed. In the car the calm continued as they sat still in the back seats, only whimpering quietly instead of the usual barking.

After another night filled with Bowie's loud chewing and insistent licking waking me every fifteen minutes along with his pitiful whimpering and crying while he destroyed his own feet - I figured it was worth a try before skipping to medication.

As Seen on TV

Zoloft in the Form of a Shirt

Though a bit confused why I was strapping him into a straight-jacket, (and feeling a bit self-conscious at the snug fit) Bowie seemed to be comfortable in only a few minutes.

Each time I notice him start to lick I quickly wrap him up and within minutes he seems to be back to his normal self, tossing his many toys around the room and laying contently by the porch in the bright sunshine.

It's AMAZING the difference just a simple t-shirt for dogs can make.

(And cats, though I cannot imagine trying to wrap one of these around a cat! If you have had success in doing so, KUDOS!)

Everyone Sleeping More Peacefully

After using the Thundershirt for a few months, Bowie is generally more calm and has a new excitement and energy to his daily routines. Though I do not keep his wearable security blanket on him all night, he seems to be sleeping more soundly, only licking a bit at night. This of course makes for a more restful night for everyone else in the household.

As I write this, he sleeps soundly next to me, wearing his Thundershirt (or "Thunderbuddy" as my boyfriend likes to call it).

Any other "Thunderbuddies"?

Have you ever tried the Thurndershirt for your dog or cat? Did it seem to work?

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    • Tygher41 profile image

      Megan Carroll 4 years ago from Boynton Beach, FL

      Thanks Lisa! I hope you found a solution. That's crazy it made her..well, crazy!

      MDavisatTiers - I hope it helps!

    • LisaKoski profile image

      Lisa 4 years ago from WA

      I used to have a min pin who had some pretty bad anxiety issues. I tried the Thundershirt but for some reason, from the moment I put it on her, she turned into a maniac, running all over the place trying to get the darn thing off. It was kind of funny to watch but it was obviously a bit uncomfortable for her so I only tried it on her twice and then returned it. I always heard such good things about it but I guess, unfortunately, it doesn't work for every dog out there. At least it worked for Bowie!

    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 4 years ago from Georgia

      Leave it to Hub Pages to help us find exactly the right help. My 14 year old mixed is terrified of storms; under-my-desk-whimpering kind of scared, with me offering soothing words and a leg to lean up against.

      That worked until we moved. Now, there's no room under the new desk for a 55 pound dog. With all of the storms in GA this year, I have to confess, I've sat on the floor next to the bed trying to comfort her after the power went out and she wedged herself under the bed.

      Thanks so much for this; will shop for a Thundershirt tonight.