Review: Thundershirt

Does it Help Curb Puppies' Stress?

Image © Thundershirt

Manufacturer's Site

Most well socialized and healthy puppies turn into confident companions, but a percentage of all pets are simply born anxious. Stressful events can prompt problem behaviors due to thunder or fireworks fears, separation anxieties or just barking and acting fearful. The Thundershirt is designed to reduce your puppy's stress and helps eliminate shaking, panting, drooling or other behaviors associated with fearfulness.

It has shown to be beneficial in up to 80 percent of cases, using a patent-pending "hugging" technique similar to baby swaddling.

Pros

  • Comes in seven sizes and three colors
  • Stretchy felt-like material and velcro fasteners adjust to body type
  • "100% Satisfaction Guarantee" from manufacturer
  • Reasonable price
  • Veterinarian and trainer approved/recommended
  • Machine washable
  • Custom embroidery (dog's name) available
  • Training instructions provided

Cons

  • Pups may outgrow small size
  • Training (conditioning) may be necessary for best effect
  • Can take several usages to see benefit
  • Some pups may chew the material
  • Extended wearing without supervision not recommended

Description

  • Soft felt-like stretchable cape
  • Velcro fasteners for under belly, at chest and around neck
  • Heather Gray (standard color)
  • Blue Polo or Pink Polo (extra charge)
  • Custom embroidery available (extra charge)
  • Machine washable (cold) and hang dry
  • Fits any dog with 7 sizes ranging from under 7 pounds to over 110 pounds
  • Ships in "earth-friendly packaging"

Review: Thundershirt

I received several sizes of the Thundershirt to review, and although my adult dog Magic does not suffer from thunder phobias, I did test and fit the product on him. German shepherds tend to be quite protective of territory and their people, and I hoped the Thundershirt might also cool Magic's jets a bit when visitors arrive or we're out in public.

I also shared a smaller size Thundershirt with a friend with a storm-phobic dog and monitored the results of another colleague's experience with a stranger-phobic dog. I also received a Cat Thundershirt to test on my Seren-kitty who is highly stressed by veterinary visits.

First impressions were of a well made and even stylish product, packaged in a re-usable earth-friendly bag that can serve as storage when the Thundershirt is not in use. The fabric is soft and stretchy so that the necessary snug fit reduces the chance of chaffing. That said, there is a caution to supervise for several uses and to remove every two hours (in the case of cats) which I believe should also be done with puppies to check for chaffing. The product information says this is rare but I'm impressed they suggest the "just in case" watchfulness.

The original Thundershirt is described as Heather Gray but for a nominal fee, you can choose the Blue Polo or Pink Polo for a more stylish look. There also is the option (for a fee) to have your dog's name embroidered onto the Thundershirt. Rest assured, though, your puppy (or cat) won't care about the look as much as how the product makes him or her feel.

The product comes with illustrated step-by-step fitting instructions.

Magic had never worn anything like this--other than a halter--and yet was not bothered at all by the comfortable material. The stretchiness and Velcro strap fasteners allow Thundershirt to fit virtually any size pet. For example, Magic weighs close to 90 pounds while Seren is just 6 pounds, and both of the products were a purr-fect fit. However, puppies with lots of growing yet to do may outgrow one size and need to be fitted with another one as they mature.

I also like that the material is machine washable since stressed pets are more likely to "mess" anything they wear, especially puppies. That said, the design is such that the pet should be able to have bathroom breaks without potty accidents happening. Again, it's best to supervise to ensure your individual pet isn't inhibited or restricted by the Thundershirt during elimination.

That also prevents the possibility of a pup deciding to chew off the Thundershirt.

The cat took a bit longer to condition, but within two uses, accepted the Cat Thundershirt with no objection. The company includes brief training tips similar to prepping pups to wear Halloween costumes for conditioning your pet to accept the product, and "further instructions" online as well as a help phone line for additional treatment tips.

Does Thundershirt Work?

I honestly did not see a measurable change in Magic's behavior during visitors to the house. That may be because his energy is not based on fear. However, one of my colleagues who also tested the Thundershirt on her stranger-phobic German shepherd dog saw great results after a single usage. And the friend with the thunder-phobic small dog also noticed improvement with less shaking and crying during storms.

My cat Seren's visit to the veterinarian while wearing the Thundershirt I judged to be 80 percent improvement over past experiences. In the past, she's been so stressed her veterinary tests came back abnormal, and she became aggressive toward the veterinarian due to fear. This time the veterinarian could handle her without aggression, and her test scores were normal.

I highly recommend using the Thundershirt as an aid to reduce stress-induced behaviors. Since it can take three or four usages before you see results, don't give up too early, and your pet may benefit from "refresher uses" every 4 to 8 weeks even if there's not an anxious event. And I suspect that if they could talk, the fearful pets would agree and give it high marks for stemming the fear factor!

 

Manufacturer's Site

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.