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Posted on 10-16-2018

What You Need to Know About Separation Anxiety and Dogs

Separation anxiety is a serious problem that can affect some dogs. Learn what separation anxiety is, how it can affect your dog, and what you can do about your dog's separation anxiety so you can keep your dog comfortable when you are not at home.

What Is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a mental and emotional distress that affects certain dogs when their owners leave. Often, separation anxiety is worse for dogs that are left alone in their kennel, but all dogs can experience separation anxiety, including dogs that are allowed to wander free around the yard or in the house.

What Are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety?

Many pet owners have a hard time telling whether or not their dog suffers from separation anxiety because the symptoms only occur when the owner is not in the house. However, sometimes you can see evidence that a dog experiences separation anxiety when left alone.  

A dog who experiences separation anxiety may perform destructive acts when their owner is gone. An owner can come home to find pillows chewed and destroyed, claw marks on the floor, or even injuries on the animal's body. Sometimes dogs hurt themselves by chewing on the bars of their kennel or by chewing on other objects in the house.

However, the best way to tell if your dog has separation anxiety is to leave a camera in the house and review the tape after returning home from an absence. Watch for problems such as:

  • Whining
  • Panic
  • Frantic barking
  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Pacing

Sometimes pets will even attempt to escape when left at home alone. Pet owners may come back to the house to find their pet has left the backyard or escaped through other means.

What Can You Do To Help a Dog With Separation Anxiety?

If your pet has separation anxiety, do these things to alleviate their distress.

Feed Your Pet

Give your pet something delicious and time-consuming to eat. Feeding your pet just before you leave can make the time that you are gone more pleasant, while also giving your pet something to think about besides your absence.

Wear Your Dog Out

Dogs that are well exercised go to sleep easier, and sleeping makes the time go by quickly when the owner is away. Take your dog for a long exercise before leaving the house. Exercise can also help relieve any stress your dog feels in day to day life, which can also help with the separation anxiety.

Let Your Dog Out of the Crate

Many dogs feel more anxiety when left in the crate. If it can be done safely, allow your dog to wander free through the house. You may need to close off rooms where your dog is not allowed. Pet-proof your home thoroughly before leaving your pet alone. This may involve moving toxic plants and baby proofing cabinets that contain chemicals.   

Act Casual When You Come Home

Your dog takes cues from you. Your dog might think their separation from you is a big deal if you act like your absence was a big deal when you come home. When you walk in the door, greet your dog like your return is nothing special.

Get Medication

Separation anxiety can be treated with medication, just like other anxiety disorders. Owners typically administer the medication to their pets about an hour before the owner leaves home so that the medicine is in effect when the owner leaves the house.   

Talk to Your Dog's Veterinarian

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, talk to your dog's veterinarian for proper anxiety medication. At Columbine Animal Hospital, we're happy to answer any questions that you might have about separation anxiety and medications that pets can take to help them with their anxiety. Contact us today to find out more. 

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