Separation Anxiety is one of the most common complaints amongst dog owners. It's important to help decrease your pet's stress levels in an effort to maintain a healthy mental state and a long, quality lifespan. The good news is, there are treatment options for your dog that are safe and completely natural!
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) explains that Separation Anxiety is one of the most common complaints amongst dog owners. 20% of the Nation's 80 million young and middle aged dogs suffer from anxiety, along with 30% of the senior dog population. Anxiety can be a debilitating condition for animals, exhibiting symptoms such as compulsive behavior, excessive uneasiness and panic attacks. It's important to help decrease your pet's stress levels in an effort to maintain a healthy mental state and a long, quality lifespan.
If your pet is burdened with anxiety, you may easily recognize the typical symptoms, such as urinating or defecating indoors, barking, growling or howling, the inability to be still, irritability, pacing, attempting to escape, chewing or digging. These signs can also be manifested by other health problems, such as incontinence, boredom, developmental immaturity, incomplete house training or medications, making it especially important to rule out other behavioral or biological issues before considering anxiety. Paying attention to the timing of the onset of symptoms is one of the best ways to differentiate between behavioral or biological. Your dog may exhibit symptoms moments before separation or hours prior. Noting these signs during the onset of anxiety will help properly diagnose and treat.
|Your dog may have anxiety when left alone.|
Many factors can increase the risk of anxiety, including:
- A change of schedule
- A change of residence
- A change in ownership
- New family members
- A new pet in the home
Treatment for Mild Anxiety:This type of separation anxiety is often referred to as "Separation Distress." Separation Distress does not pose a risk to the dog's immediate physical health and is a milder form of anxiety. In this case, a behavior modification technique known as Counter Conditioning is effective in improving an anxious dog's demeanor and promotes calm behavior. The goal of Counter Conditioning is to associate being alone with something positive. For example, offer a puzzle toy with a treat inside that will take him 20 to 30 minutes to finish. It is very important that this particular treat or activity only be used for this purpose and remember to remove the toy as soon as you return home. Playing soft music while you are away can also help decrease mild anxiety symptoms.
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Anxiety:These types of anxiety obviously require more complex treatment options. Patience is the name of the game here. Counter Conditioning is also used but usually in addition to gradual desensitization, this requires that you leave your pet for shorter periods and then gradually increase the time you are away. This can start with leaving for a matter of seconds and then reappearing, gradually increasing to minutes and so on. Once 40 minutes have been mastered, it is believed that at this point, it is appropriate to increase the amount of time per absence up to 15 minutes per attempt. Once your pup has reached 90 minutes successfully, he is likely to experience very little anxiety for up to 4 to 8 hours alone. This treatment process may seem lengthy but can be accomplished within a few weeks if several daily sessions are conducted and repeated as often as possible.
|There is a natural solution to your pet's anxiety.|
Another desensitization method that has proven effective, is to perform some of the tasks which trigger your dog's anxiety. An example of this would be picking up your keys and walking around with them for awhile and then putting them away. Or wearing your coat while watching tv and cuddling your dog. Your dog will slowly begin to disassociate these behaviors with your absence, ultimately decreasing pre-departure distress symptoms.
It is very important to remember while you are working on these treatments with your pet, you do not leave him alone, except during your desensitizing sessions. It may be necessary for you to arrange a dog sitter for actual times you have to be away.
Caring for a pet with Separation Anxiety can be challenging and time consuming but don't give up and don't forget, this is a temporary situation. By putting forth the effort to decrease your dog's Separation Anxiety, you are improving the quality of your relationship with him and ultimately the quality of his life! Remember to stay consistent and loving throughout this process and be sure to contact your Veterinarian if you suspect your pet's anxiety is not improving or if you need any further assistance.
Stephanie, is a Registered Nurse and proud mother, of 4 whom has always loved animals and the purity and beauty they bring into the world. She enjoys researching current trends and evidence based practice in the pet industry and relating it to the healthcare industry for humans. She has passion in discovering new found knowledge with other pet owners like herself.
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