Pets can have separat ion anxiet y, too
Nearly all pet ow ners consider thei r animals an integ ral part of the family, and treat them as such. Most pet s do not make a fuss when you leave the house, although they are always happy to see you return. Others have a disorder that is called ‘separation anxiety’, where the pet’s ow ner must be in sight at all times, other wise the anima l will go craz y.
Many dogs that have separation anxiety have a hy per- attachment to the owner; are excessively attentive to the own er, and follow him or her everywhere. They always want to be held, touched, or cling to the owner and sometimes even become anorexic when the ow ner is not present.
“Occasionally thisbehavior problem is seen in puppies and adult dogs from rescue groups or shelters, or adult dogs that have to sudd en ly de al w ith sched ule changes in which they are spending nu mer ous hou rs alon e, when in t he past t he owner wa s alw ays w ith them,” sai d Dr. M. A. Crist , Clinic al Assistant Professor at the Tex as A& M Colle ge of Veterinar y Med icine & Biomedica l Scienc es. “Separation anxiet yis usually about two things , separation and anxiety or fe ar.”
Symptoms of separation anxiety in dog s can in cl ude de stru ctive behav ior directed towards personal items like clothing, remote controls, bedding, doorways and windows, in an effort to escape from crates or c on f ine d ro om s. Pers i st e nt bark ing, howling, and eliminations wit h urine and fecal accidents in multiple area s may al l be signs of anxiety from being left alone.
If you not ic e hy persalivation with possible puddles of thick saliva inthecrate ornearadoorwayor w ind ow, it ma y be cause d from your pet sc rat ching in orde r to at tempt escap e. These symptoms oc cur wh en t he dog is a lon e or believes it is alone.
Treatment of separation anxie ty will usually invol ve peop le interaction , the dog’s envir onment, and so metimes anti-anxie tymedicat ion.Some common manag ement step s can also include increa sing your dog’s level of independence.
“ It isrec om mend edtonot rew ard anxiety attention se ek ing from dog s as a level of com fort. Prov id ing attent ion du ring these situations will enable your dog and rei nforce the unwanted behavior. Positive attention that is initiated by the ow ner and scheduled training can be helpful,” Crist said.
“Keep your arrivals and dep arturestoaminimu mand non- eventful. It is recom mended to perform all departure activities 30 minutes prior to leav ing such as feeding, walking, and eli minating,’ he continued . “Do not leave in a hurrybecause the dogwill pick up on this and canbener vous when the ow ner leaves the home. Ev aluate some of th e depart ure act iv ities the owner performs such as get tin g the car keys, pickin g up a walle t or pu rse, or get tin g th e cell phone. Any of these can bepredic torsthattheowneris going to depart and make the dog anxious.
“One ca n try to desensitize the dog to some of the depart ure of the activit ies by performing them at times wh en th e owner is not leav ing. Te ach the pet to be le ft alone by providing dog bed ar eas in different rooms for the dog to lie dow n. Pract ice with t he pet having them lie in these area s for longer periods of time each time and then beg in leaving the home and increasing the leng th of time periods.”
Cer tain methods of distraction can also wor k well to keep you r pe t occupied while you leave the premises. The se methods inc lude the owner leaving a treat that will take the dog a long time to consume or leaving the television or music on in the house. Dogs may be kept in a cr ate which sometimes can increase or decrease the an xiet y leve l, and may also prote ct t he home from da mage made by the unwanted behavior of the pet.
You may also use a sy nthetic dog appeasi ng pheromone (DA P) th roughout the household where the pet is located. The pheromone may prov ide so me degree of calmi ng in dogs that ex perience separation an xiety. “Som etimes dogs suffe r from sep arat ion anxietyto apoint where they need to be prescribed medication from a veterinarian or a veter inary behavior speci ali st ,” Cris t sa id . “It is recomme nded that the medication and a behav ior mod i fic at ion program go ha nd in hand and that the medicat ion does not replace the mod ification plan. The two veterinary approved medications for separat ion anxiety in dog s are Clom ic alm (ge neric name clomipramine) and Reconcile (gener ic name fluoxetine).” Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinar y Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A& M University.