Dog separation anxiety is a real problem that many pet owners face. It is essentially when your dog is afraid to be left alone. It is most often seen in puppies because they are sad being away from their mother, and they make a close bond when they go to a new home. Unfortunately, some dogs really just don’t grow out of this anxiety. They have an immense amount of fear, and often times it can lead to behavior problems.
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Causes of Dog Separation Anxiety
First, we will take a look at some of the main causes of separation anxiety. We already mentioned the separation anxiety that puppies have, and this is sometimes something that they just grow out of as they get older and become more trusting that you will return home to them at the end of the day. Some cases of dog separation anxiety, however, may be caused by different factors. A few of the most common causes of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- unstable home environment
- neglect or abuse
- personality types
- early weaning
- lack of stimulation
- bacterial infection
- brain development issues
- hormonal abnormalities
As you can see, the list can go on and on. This often times makes it difficult to determine why your dog may be experiencing this anxiety when they are separated from you. Sometimes, it is something that you need to talk to your vet about, just to rule out any physical issues that may be causing it. Once you rule out anything physical, you can begin to treat the anxiety and modify their behaviors.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
One of the first things that you need to do is look for the warning signs of separation anxiety. There are a variety of different signs that may indicate that they suffer from separation anxiety. The problem is, sometimes the signs of separation anxiety are very closely related to the signs that come along with just plain boredom in dogs. Your dog may exhibit certain behaviors, including, but not limited to the following:
- destructive behavior
- inappropriate urination or defecation
- overeating or undereating
- excessive grooming
The best way to tell if your dog is suffering from anxiety, and that they aren’t just bored, is to spend more time with them and get them some toys to play with throughout the day. If their behaviors don’t subside after a few weeks, then you may have a more serious problem on your hands. Puppies will often show these signs in the beginning, and sometimes it is because of both boredom AND separation anxiety. This is something that should go away once they gain trust in you and your home. Sometimes, homes that have multiple dogs will be less likely to have pups that experience these anxiety issues, because they always have someone there, a friend so to speak!
Is Medicine Necessary?
One question that we are asked often is whether or not medication is necessary for separation anxiety. The answer is not as easy as you would think. It isn’t just a yes or no answer. Each dog has a unique situation, and it really depends on the severity of the problem.
If your dog is starting to excessively groom themselves, to the point where they are making their skin irritated or raw, then it may be time to talk to your veterinarian about medical options. You don’t want your dog to put himself in danger due to their anxiety.
When it comes to drug therapy, it is always best to exhaust the other options first. If your dog is still having a hard time with separation, there may be something that the vet can prescribe them to help them calm their nerves. Consider it a ‘chill pill’ of sorts! Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most commonly prescribed medications to help dogs that suffer from panic or anxiety disorders. The problem is that some of these medications have side effects that are less than desirable. Talk to your vet about what will be the best option for your dog.
As you can see, separation anxiety is a serious issue. Some people just chock it up to boredom, but that isn’t always the case. If you continuously provide your dog with stimulating toys and things to do when you are gone, and they continue their behaviors, there may be an underlying condition that is causing this behavior.
Make sure that you get to the bottom of it, because it can be very tiring to deal with a dog with separation anxiety. This is especially true when they become destructive, and it may take all you have inside of you to not just lose your cool with them. Just try to be patient until you can get them the help they need for the condition.