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Ask A Vet: Does My Dog Know When A Storm Is Coming?

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We know that many creatures are certainly attuned to their surroundings and other subtle cues that humans might miss.  Dogs have been suggested to know a lot of things, like hidden cancers and impending seizures in patients with epilepsy. People also report that they notice changes in their dogs when a storm rolls in, but can dogs tell when there’s going to be a storm?

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We would love to have our dogs help us anticipate and plan for severe weather. Perhaps if we are more tuned in to the dogs, we can help each other. Atmospheric pressure drops in the hours preceding a storm. There is scientific suggestion that even insects can alter their patterns and behaviors in response to changes in environment, like atmospheric pressure. Moths and aphids have been documented to have changes associated with pressure change, light cycle, and temperatures 1.

Barometric pressure can cause a response among birds. Natural changes in barometric pressure can precede a storm by 12-24 hours and certain types of birds will alter their feeding behavior in response to experimentally induced barometric pressure drops 2.  It stands to reason that other animals in the wild might respond similarly. Mammals such as cows have been shown to have altered birth rates in relation to the barometric pressure for spring calving 3.

Another interesting study found that mice experienced changes in their blood pressure in response to geomagnetic effects associated with a naturally occurring storm 4. Sugar gliders were documented to decrease their activity (a feat for this very energetic species) in order to outlast storms 5.

We can deduce that as members of the animal world, our dogs might also be aware of these environmental alterations. But in many of the studied animals, their survival depends on paying attention to these clues and making changes to enhance survival. This is not the case for our dogs, since we make sure that they are safe and protected regardless of the weather.

Probably on a basic level, your dog is aware of changes in atmospheric pressures and geomagnetic effects, but might not need to alter her behavior because of it. As the people who know our dogs the best, however, we are the most likely to see subtle changes in their behavior that could signify a warning and make changes to our behavior to protect us both.

Our partnership with our dogs is already a mutually beneficial one, but we have only just begun to explore its many facets.

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  1. Weather forecasting by insects: modified sexual behaviour in response to atmospheric pressure changes.PLoS One. 2013 Oct 2;8(10):e75004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075004. eCollection 2013.Pellegrino AC, Peñaflor MF, Nardi C, Bezner-Kerr W, Guglielmo CG, Bento JM, McNeil JN.
  2. Environment, behavior and physiology: do birds use barometric pressure to predict storms?J Exp Biol. 2013 Jun 1;216(Pt 11):1982-90. doi: 10.1242/jeb.081067.Breuner CW, Sprague RS, Patterson SH, Woods HA.
  3. Relationships of barometric pressure and environmental temperature with incidence of parturition in beef cows.J Anim Sci. 2012 May;90(5):1583-8. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-4088. Epub 2011 Dec 6.Troxel TR, Gadberry MS.
  1. Artificial reproduction of magnetic fields produced by a natural geomagnetic storm increases systolic blood pressure in rats. Int J Biometeorol. 2016 Nov;60(11):1753-1760. Epub 2016 Apr 19. Martínez-Bretón JL, Mendoza B, Miranda-Anaya M, Durán P, Flores-Chávez PL.
  2. Snoozing through the storm: torpor use during a natural disaster. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 15;5:11243. doi: 10.1038/srep11243. Nowack J, Rojas AD, Körtner G, Geiser F.

 

 

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