Every dog owner is familiar with their pet’s emotions and moods from begging eagerly for a treat to excited to go for a walk to dramatic and fearful about a bath. There is one mood, however, that is often overlooked, simply because the owner is not around to see it – separation anxiety.
What Is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
All dogs may have brief moments of separation anxiety, but momentary whining when an owner leaves does not mean the dog is genuinely distressed. True separation anxiety is a distinct behavioral change that occurs only when the owner, or whomever the dog is strongly bonded, is not around. Symptoms may be mild and could disappear quickly, but in severe cases that dog may injure itself or suffer from health complications due to extreme distress. While each dog may show stress differently, typical signs of separation anxiety include…
- Frantic escape attempts from any confinement, including crates
- Destructive behavior such as chewing, biting or scratching
- Howling, whining or barking excessively
- Uncontrolled urination or defecation, even when housetrained
- Appetite loss and refusal to eat or drink while alone
- Repetitive pacing or circling
- Excessive salivation, panting or other signs of physical stress
It is important to note that there may be other health issues that can create similar symptoms, and it is important to get a dog examined by a veterinarian if these symptoms persist.
Even if a dog has not had separation anxiety before, it can develop due to traumatic experiences in the dog’s life. Dogs that lose their families – being rehomed or adopted from shelters – are often more prone to anxiety issues. Similarly, if a close family member disappears, such as from a death, moving away to college or a divorce, for example, the dog may feel anxious about that loss. Moving from one home to another can also create separation anxiety in dogs, as can traumatic emergencies, such as a major earthquake, severe hurricane or other natural disaster. Fortunately, no matter what the cause, there are several ways to treat separation anxiety in dogs.
Treating Your Pet’s Separation Anxiety
For mild distress, only simple conditioning treatment may be necessary, but if the dog’s anxiety is severe, stronger measures and multiple techniques may be needed to help them feel calm and secure.
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