Comparison of Anxiety Wrap, Thundershirt & Storm DefenderBy Cindy Ludwig, M.A., KPA-CTP
How does The original Anxiety Wrap Compare to the Thundershirt & Storm Defender? Each of these products is recommended for Thunderstorm phobia in dogs, but are they all equally effective? Are there any research studies to corroborate the claims of effectiveness of these products?
The Anxiety Wrap
The original patented pressure wrap, the Anxiety Wrap was developed by Susan Sharpe, a certified professional dog trainer and T-touch practitioner in 2001.
The Anxiety Wrap works in two ways: 1) maintained pressure, and 2) pressure applied to acupressure points in the neck, chest, shoulders, belly, mid-section and rear legs. Only the Anxiety Wrap has rear leg straps that create rear-end awareness to target pressure points in the hindquarters where dogs often hold tension. The straps are adjustable and removable.
The Anxiety Wrap is made of a stretchy, thin, breathable fabric. It contains elasticized elements which apply pressure to acupressure points and allow the fit to be customized to each individual dog. Velcro closures are located on the aspect of the garment that lies over the dog's back.
The Thundershirt, a pressure wrap first marketed in 2009 was developed by dog owner, Phil Blizzard. It is made of a thicker fabric than the Anxiety Wrap, with velcro closures on the front of the garment over the dog's chest as well as around the girth. The velcro near the dog's head is a drawback for sound sensitive dogs. The Thundershirt, which resembles a dog coat covers less of the chest and shoulders, especially in larger dogs, and is less form-fitting than the Anxiety Wrap.
The Storm Defender
The Storm Defender was invented by electrical engineer, Tom Critzer who first started selling the product in 2004. According to Andrew Critzer, Tom Critzer's son and Managing Member of the Storm Defender LLC, the Storm Defender is a unique product designed to alleviate Thunderstorm phobia. The product, described as a "cape," contains an anti-static metallic lining that protects the dog wearing the cape from static electricity that occurs before and during thunderstorms.
Although the Storm Defender is not a pressure wrap and is designed primarily as a treatment for Thunderstorm phobia, the Storm Defender website advises against putting the Storm Defender on a dog for separation anxiety and then leaving. Conversely, the Anxiety Wrap is a pressure wrap that is marketed for thunderstorm phobia as well as other types of anxiety. On the Anxiety Wrap website the product is advertised as safe to leave on a dog while the owner is absent. This is an important consideration for owners that have to leave to go to work.
Role of Medication
According to the Storm Defender website, "certain drugs may make the learning process [associated with use of the Storm Defender] more difficult."
When asked about this recommendation, Critzer said, "The recommendations regarding drug use mainly come from my father’s ideas about the dogs learning behaviors. We’ve softened that idea somewhat and now recommend owners consult their vets. Generally speaking, it’s difficult for dogs to sense the true effects of the Storm Defender if they are too doped up.Other than that it’s OK to combine techniques."
The Thundershirt website advertises that there is "no need for medication." On the Research page of the Thundershirt website there is a discussion of the author's opinion regarding drawbacks associated with medication, one being a long onset of action and another, oversedation. Valium is cited as an example of a drug that might be prescribed. A discussion of medication management is beyond the scope of this article but suffice it to say that Valium is not a medication used for anxiety management in dogs. In fact, it is infrequently prescribed for people these days due to the availability of shorter-acting benzodiazepines. The author writes that Fluoxetine (Prozac) is a drug that is administered for the life of the dog, but this is not usually the case.
Medication that is used to treat anxiety is usually prescribed for short term management, as it is in people, to decrease anxiety enough to allow the dog to learn to have a neutral or even positive association with an object or situation that previously evoked fear or anxiety. When medication is used it should always be accompanied by behavior modification under the guidance of a skilled professional trainer or certified behaviorist. Medication alone does not address the underlying issue or work to teach the dog new ways of responding to his environment.
The Anxiety Wrap can be used effectively alone or as an adjunct in the management of anxiety and fear. The Anxiety Wrap website does not advertise that the Anxiety Wrap eliminates the need for medication.
Cost and Guarantee
All three products offer a money-back guarantee. This excludes embroidered Thundershirt products. The Anxiety Wrap and the Thundershirt each sell for $39.95, while the Storm Defender sells for $44.99 - $55.99, depending on size. The Storm Defender can be customized with the dog's name for an additional $7.00. The Thundershirt also offers customized embroidery for an additional $10.00.
Shipping for the Storm Defender is $6.00 within the United States and $15.00 for international shipping. Shipping for the Anxiety Wrap is $6.95 for First Class Mail and International first class to Canada, $8.95 and up. Additional shipping options are available for the Anxiety Wrap. The Thundershirt is currently offering free shipping.
Sizes and Colors
The Storm Defender and Thundershirt each come in 7 different sizes, and the Anxiety Wrap is available in 11 different sizes and can also be custom-sized for an additional $25.00. . The Storm Defender is only available in red and the Anxiety Wrap is presently only available in black. The Thundershirt comes in three colors - navy blue, pink and gray.
In a recent, as of yet unpublished clinical research study conducted at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine by Nicole Cottam and Dr. Nicholas Dodman the Anxiety Wrap was found to be effective in 89% of the study participants suffering from Thunderstorm phobia.
Based on surveys of Thundershirt customers, the company reports that "over 80% of dogs show a significant improvement in symptoms when wearing the Thundershirt." Symptoms are subjective, whereas signs are objective observations. It is impossible to evaluate symptoms in dogs since dogs do not have verbal language.
Storm Defender LLC advertises that over 95% of their customers report successful results. This statistic, according to Critzer is inferred from the number of returns which he says ranges between 2-3% of total sales.
In a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the Storm Defender Nicole Cottam and Dr. Nicholas Dodman at Tufts University divided 23 dogs into two groups, one with the anti-static Storm Defender cape and the other, a control group with a non-anti-static cape. Both capes resulted in a significant reduction in owner-reported anxiety scores from baseline scores.
Although there was a greater reduction in median anxiety score in the Storm Defender group than the group wearing the non-anti-static cape during the fourth thunderstorm, there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in their median anxiety scores or owner assessment of anxiety reduction achieved with the cape.
The results of this study suggest is that the anti-static property of the Storm Defender may not be responsible for the product's therapeutic effect. The investigators concluded that more research is needed to determine why both capes were effective.
Summary and Conclusion
The original patented Anxiety Wrap is made of a lightweight breathable fabric that can be worn swimming and used to cool a dog in warmer months. The velcro closures are at the top of the garment away from the dog's head so that removing the garment does not startle the dog like removal of the Thundershirt.
The Anxiety Wrap comes in 11 different sizes with the option of custom sizing. It has elasticized elements to provide optimal fit, whereas the Storm Defender and the Thundershirt each come in only 7 different sizes.
The Anxiety Wrap is the only product that provides rear-end awareness for additional stress release its the adjustable and removal hind end straps.
While the Thundershirt provides pressure around the dog's girth, the Anxiety Wrap covers more body surface area and provides a more even fit with more maintained pressure than any other product on the market today.
The Storm Defender is more expensive than the Anxiety Wrap and the Thundershirt and its purported benefit is limited to thunderstorm phobia, whereas the pressure wraps are effective for all types of anxiety. The purported anti-static mechanism of the Storm Defender for anxiety reduction in thunderstorm phobia has not been substantiated by clinical research.
The Anxiety Wrap is the original pressure wrap; the Anxiety Wrap and the Storm Defender are patented, whereas the Thundershirt is not.
In a recent clinical research study conducted at Tufts University the Anxiety Wrap was determined to be a "safe and effective treatment for canine Thunderstorm phobia" with an 89% rate of effectiveness. The Storm Defender was found to be "moderately therapeutic in treating canine thunderstorm phobia," but again, the researchers were unable to conclude that this effect was due to the Storm Defender's special metallic lining.
The 95% success rate reported by Storm Defender LLC is based on the number of returned capes, and the 80% success rate advertised by the developer of the Thundershirt is based on customer surveys.
The Anxiety Wrap comes with the added bonus of online support from certified professional dog trainers at no extra charge. For the money, the original patented Anxiety Wrap offers an overall greater therapeutic benefit to dogs with Thunderstorm phobia and other anxiety-related disorders as well as the added value of customer support from experienced certified professional dog trainers.
The Thundershirt in Navy Blue
The Anxiety Wrap on an Anxious Dog