Treatment for Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Did you know that approximately 20% of our canine friends suffer from separation anxiety? The condition is physically and emotionally damaging to dogs, and it can take a toll on the monetary budget and emotions of dog owners. The cost to repair walls, doors, flooring and furniture can really add up. And, it’s natural to worry or get angry and frustrated. Fortunately, we have had great success in treating separation anxiety in dogs.

What causes separation anxiety in dogs?

Dogs are basically pack animals. They are programmed to live in groups, and separation from the group means death. When we adopt a puppy or a grown dog, we are taking them into our social group and teaching them to live with us and our social order. However, it can sometimes be a rough transition. We love dogs for many reasons, including the way that they bond with us. However, this bond can cause trouble if we are not around and the dog suffers from separation anxiety.  

This condition often results in owners coming home to torn doors, walls and curtains. The dog may have even urinated, defecated or drooled excessively. These can all be signs of separation anxiety. Unfortunately, some dogs may remain undiagnosed because they simply freeze and shut down when their owners are away.  

Not all dogs who destroy the couch cushions, books, curtains, etc. suffer from separation anxiety. Some are just very bored when we are gone, and they do it for fun. Dogs acting out in this way probably need a different form of treatment.

Treating dogs with separation anxiety

Fortunately, the treatment for separation anxiety can be very successful. It involves medication, behavior modification and sometimes lifestyle changes. A good place to start is with a video camera. This can help your veterinarian determine if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety or just boredom which can have different treatments.

When separation anxiety has been identified, working with your veterinarian and a qualified trainer that is experienced with behavior problems is essential. Some things to expect…

  • Doggy daycare/walking: During the initial phases of treatment, it may be necessary to have your pet attend a doggy daycare (if they like that) or have a dog walker come in several times a day. Fortunately, many work places are becoming more open about having pets come to work. Keep in mind that there is a time limit that your dog should be left alone. If you are going to be gone extended periods of time even after initial treatment, it is best to have a pet sitter/walker come over to provide companionship and a potty break. Some dogs will do best at a doggy day care.

  • Medication, supplements, etc: Some of the most common medications used are anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants. Some of these drugs work immediately while others take several weeks to reach full effect. Pheromones, supplements, thundershirts as well as music are also very helpful in easing the signs of separation anxiety.

  • Behavior modification: This step is essential in working with your dog to overcome the anxiety of being left alone. It gives the dog coping skills and teaches it that being alone is not a death sentence. The training also gives the owner skills on how to manage leaving the house and how to approach coming home. Behavioral modification is as much for the owner as for the dog.

Let us help you and your dog

The first step in diagnosing separation anxiety is to see your veterinarian. If you have a video of your dog’s actions when alone, bring it along. We will want to do a physical exam and get some blood work to make sure there is not a physical cause of the anxiety. Once separation anxiety has been confirmed, we will discuss medication, supplements, pheromone usage and recommend a trainer. Separation anxiety is highly treatable. Once treated, your pet’s life and yours will improve dramatically.. Please contact us for further information.

Jennifer Morrow