As we have discussed in other blog posts that the dressing of pets (cats and dogs) goes back a long way and is multipurposed. Sometimes it is just for fun, such as dressing a four legged friend in a costume for Halloween or Christmas. Other times it can be for practical purposes such as keeping a pet warm or dry in inclement weather all the way to dressing war dogs for battle (see the blog on the History of Dressing Pets).
The purpose of this blog is to look at one very specific ‘garment’ that is being talked about (and used) lately…the “Thundershirt“. This blog is to keep the interested pet owners informed as to the discussed benefits and drawbacks of the Thundershirt.
Purpose of the Thundershirt
The Thundershirt is a vest designed to ease anxiety and calm the dog or cat in different situations. The name comes from the fact that many pet owners will put this on their pet when they know that there is a forecast for thunder.
That is where the company owner originally got the idea for the vest – from his own dog’s difficulties in thunderstorms. It indeed started out to calm pets in the wake of thunderstorms, however it is also being used for a variety of other purposes.
This vest is said to be suitable to calm the pet in the face of any loud noises such as fireworks of perhaps even the family vacuum cleaner. It is also been utilized by some owners to calm their pet in unfamiliar situations, like visiting other houses or going to the veterinarian’s office.
Others possible uses include possible travel, such as stressful car trips or airline travel, for separation anxiety and/or even crate training. It seems that there is evidence of the Thundershirt being used in to cope with most any anxiety issues. In short, if you have an overly excited, hyper, or nervous pet, the Thundershirt may be able to help.
How Does the Thundershirt Work?
There is no detailed scientific reason that the Thundershirt is said to work, but rather just an explanation that is quite simple. The Thundershirt is designed to wrap around your dog’s or cat’s midsection to apply gentle pressure there. From when a dog or cat was young, it was often when the owner was holding or carrying their pet that they felt most secure due to the pressure of your body against theirs.
The Thundershirt principle is very similar to that. When used, a properly fitted Thundershirt will exert that slight squeezing pressure that will help the dog or cat feel more comfortable and secure. It can easily be described as a ‘swaddling effect’ for the pet that is wearing it.
That’s really all there is to it! There is nothing magic or special contained inside the shirt itself. It is merely designed to apply gentle pressure. That’s it!
Does it Actually Work?
The Thundershirt customer reviews that we looked up were actually quite impressive. The company currently claims to have a success rate of over 80%. There is no overblown hype about complete user satisfaction or a 100% success rate as that would be unrealistic. Some pets will simply not feel comfortable in the vest.
Others pets may have some more severe trauma or psychological issues where further help is required. Solutions for this are well beyond the realm of this blog.
Bottom line, however, is that the Thundershirt is a popular product with a lot of sales across the world. Owners are seeing the benefits in this solution as witnessed by a large number of extremely positive reviews on numerous sites (i.e Amazon).
There are great testimonials for users in all kinds of situations. There are reviews from veterinarians that see the difference on patients in their care, dog and cat handlers dealing with victims of abuse and other owners with their own anxiety-based pet dramas.
Advantages to the Thundershirt
The primary advantage to the Thundershirt is that this is a natural calming solution, meaning that pet owners can actually find solutions to their pet issues without having to utilize drugs and/and other chemicals. It is always best to not have to resort to sedating our pets unless absolutely necessary or when there is a better and more solution available.
Another advantage of the Thundershirt is that there are different sizes available for different breeds as well as for cats and dogs. There are seven different sizes available ranging from XS to XXL. The ability to size the vest properly a key reason why there are so many positive reviews, that being that it is available for all sorts of breeds.
Also very advantageous is the user-friendly design and materials. Owners can remove the vest it and wash it as needed using a standard washer and dryer (i.e.. no special handling is required). It is also easy to fasten and unfasten in a matter of seconds as it utilizes Velcro to hold it in place.
One last advantage that deserves a definite mention is the fact that this is a money saving solution. It is a one time purchase for long-term results and relief. It has the potential to reduce healthcare costs, as there it can reduce vet bills or the need to obtain drugs.
Disadvantages to the Thundershirt
While as stated above, there are many strong advantages to the Thundershirt, no solution is perfect or will work 100% of the time. It would be unrealistic to expect that. There are some people that find that they put this vest on their dog and don’t get the results expected. This is why the manufacturers quote a success rate of approximately 80%.
This also may not necessarily work the first time around. At first, the vest may be uncomfortable to the pet especially if they are not used to wearing any type of garments. For these animals, over time they should get used to it and then will come the hoped for results.
Also, as with any new pet garment, there is also the slight risk for irritation points to occur. Areas of the vest could irritate the skin. While this is, it is always possible. and is more common with those that leave the vest on for prolonged periods of time (such as when used for separation anxiety training).
Some owners may also worry about the risk of their animals overheating while wearing this vest. This shouldn’t be an issue in most climates because the vest is made from a very light, breathable material.
The bottom line is that the Thundershirt does indeed seem to be a well-designed product that is not overly expensive, adaptable and durable, easy to care for, and most of all it will likely work for 8 out of 10 pets. While we still definitely urge you to check out customer reviews for yourself, the ones that we used to reflect the facts in this blog were for the most part extremely positive.