Canines and felines experience separation anxiety for very different reasons and exhibit very different symptoms. Cats may feel anxious after being separated from their mother, from early weaning, or when purchased from a pet store. A dog might begin experiencing separation anxiety after a change in ownership or a serious alteration in their owner’s routine or schedule. Shelter dogs also experience anxiety, because rescue animals live in constant fear of abandonment. Some degree of separation anxiety is estimated to occur in about 30% of all dogs, making it one of the most prevalent disorders among canines; however, it is so uncommon in cats that until recently, it was thought to be non-existent.
To eliminate the fears of separation anxiety, gradual behavior modification is necessary. With the help of our staff and your dedication and commitment, we can build a treatment plan that helps your pet enjoy or tolerate being left alone, easing their grief and yours.
Indications of a dog with separation anxiety:
- Barking or howling when owner leaves.
- Chewing up things in owner’s absence.
- Consuming feces only in owner’s absence.
- Digging in owner’s absence.
- Dog is overly excited when owner gets home.
- Escaping confinement when owner isn’t present.
- Exhibiting obsessive compulsive disorder.
- Need to be by owner’s side constantly.
Symptoms of a cat with separation anxiety:
- Having “accidents” outside of the litter box in their owner’s absence.
- Hiding in owner’s absence.
- Needing to be in owner’s presence.
- Refusing to eat.
- Vomiting in owner’s absence.
Treatment options for separation anxiety:
Persistence with any treatment plan is critical. Working alongside our veterinarian, we can form a customized behavior modification plan that allows you to gradually train your pet to be self-sufficient, calming their anxiety. In cases of moderate-to-severe separation anxiety, we might suggest prescription medication to supplement training. Prescriptions will be tapered off once pets start to show improvements in behavior and begin accepting the training process.
For severe canine separation anxiety, we recommend pet owners taking their dogs to a doggie daycare or hiring a pet sitter. Many times having some attention, even if it isn’t from the pet owner, takes a dog’s mind off of the owner being away. While the cost of a caregiver can be expensive, it could potentially outweigh the cost of expensive damage caused by an anxious dog left alone.
No matter the case, punishment should never be used on a pet with separation anxiety. This will only increase their anxiety and cause them to act out more. Similarly, frantic, hyper pets should never be awarded with attention immediately after an owner gets home; let pets settle down before rewarding them with attention, letting them know that they will only receive acknowledgement when they are calm and quiet.
If you have questions regarding separation anxiety or would like to enroll your pet in behavior modification classes, please contact our veterinary office at your convenience.