Separation Anxiety in Dogs- Causes and Treatment
16 January, 2018
Guest Blog by Sloan McKinney
Separation anxiety is a real problem for some pets and is most commonly seen in dogs. Anxiety, by definition, is more than simply being uncomfortable, it is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically accompanied by compulsive behavior or panic attacks. Signs that your pet may have this disorder include:
- Vocalization: Excessive barking, howling, whining or crying
- Elimination: Urinating near doors and windows when already housebroken
- Destruction: Also typically seen at doors or windows
- Departure: Symptoms may occur as the owner is preparing to leave
- Salivation: More than usual, called hyper-salivating
- Restlessness: Shaking, shivering or excessive grooming
- Activity: Excessive walking, pacing, lying down and getting up repeatedly
These behaviors can cycle off and on every twenty minutes or so as the animal calms down and then the symptoms will return.
Seeking Professional Help
Some of these symptoms may be representative of an actual medical condition, perhaps the urination is due to a bladder problem or incontinence. Destructive behavior can be due to a lack of exercise, being in their crate too often or not being stimulated enough. You should seek the help of your veterinarian to ensure your pet isn’t experiencing a medical event that is causing these problems. In any case, this condition is a real, serious disorder and this kind of excessive stress is unhealthy.
Again, nobody’s exactly sure what causes this disorder in dogs and some cats have also been diagnosed with separation anxiety. Veterinarians and behaviorists have theorized that in some cases, animals could have been genetically predisposed with stress or that:
- There seems to be a correlation in dogs with other existing phobias such as fear of thunderstorms or fireworks.
- It was a learned behavior for animals that were rarely left alone, owned by retired people or stay-at-home parents.
Some believe that puppies who were weaned too early may grow up to experience this loss with their owners as well. However, most dogs learn to deal with being away from their mother as they grow older, so it is difficult to know for sure.
According to statistics, over 40% of pets with separation anxiety are left untreated and other figures show that older dogs are more likely to have this disorder and when treated:
- 17% are aided with behavior modification
- 10% are given medication
- 22% are treated with both behavior modification and drugs
- 10% are referred to another source for help
For the dogs who are given medication, typically a mild sedative is used for around six weeks to calm the dog when their master departs and then diminish the dosage over a period of time in hopes that the dog will learn to adjust. Behavior modification and medication work well together to bring the most successful outcome for modifying separation anxiety along with and some other fears and phobias.
Almost all dogs aren’t happy about being separated from their master, but not to the point of panic and fear. As animal lovers, we’re often prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that our pets are happy and healthy and this condition can be treated.
Sloan McKinney is a journalist based in Southern California. After writing about pop culture for a number of years, she has recently begun writing for a new audience. Inspired by DeAnthony, her cat, as well as her dog Max, Sloan now hopes to help other pet owners guarantee their animal companions happy and healthy lives.
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