Have you ever returned home just to find your pet has created a mess out of your things? Does your pet whine and cry incessantly when you’re about to leave the house? When your pet exhibits these extreme behaviors and others such as crying, howling, soiling, and salivating whenever you leave the house, most likely it has what is called separation anxiety.
Separation Anxiety is something common among pets especially dogs. Dogs are what we call “pack animals” or animals that stay together in a group. That being said, your pet’s reaction of fear and panic when left alone is an instinctive reaction. Separation anxiety is more than just simple anxiety and agitation. It is an actual clinical condition that is characterized by prolonged and extended behavior. It manifests within the 15 minutes after you leave the house and can range from mild to severe.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is manifested through excessive fear and stress when they become separated from people close to them. This typically results to a panic attack, and happens in a prolonged period. Although common among infants and children, separation anxiety also affects our pets.
Reasons for Separation Anxiety
- A pet who is rarely on its own is left alone for the first time.
- When a pet moves from one owner to another
- When it experiences loss
- A change in routine
- When there is a new member of the household ( a baby, a guest or a new family member, or another pet)
- When it becomes too attached to its owner
If you suspect that your pet has separation anxiety, observe and watch out for these signs and behaviors:
Chewing things up
When a dog with separation anxiety is left on its own in your house, you typically return to a mess of chewed up stuff like paper, clothes, shoes and other household items especially those that you own and has your scent.
Urinating and Defecating
When you notice that your dog urinates and defecates even when you leave the house even when you have house trained it, it most likely has separation anxiety.
Howling and incessant barking
Although dogs typically bark when triggered, dogs with separation anxiety howl, cry, whine and bark excessively with the hope that you will come back.
Pacing is a typical response in dogs when they are experiencing anxiety. Although it is a common behavior among pets, especially when they want to get your attention, it is also one of the ways they cope with their feelings of anxiety and stress. Observe your dog and see if the behavior is out of character, in which case he may be experiencing separation anxiety.
Salivation and drooling are common among dogs. However, when a dog produces more saliva than it can swallow, this may be a manifestation of a condition called ptyalism. Ptyalism or hypersalivation is a condition common among dogs and cats and is manifested through excessive production of saliva in the oral cavity. It is also one of the common signs of separation anxiety in your pets.
Attempts to escape
When your pet typically knocks of objects near your windows or doorways, or chews and claws your openings in your house, it may be a sign that it wants to escape and get out of your home.
Refusal to eat
Pets who suffer separation anxiety usually don’t eat food in the absence of their owners.
Becomes frantic when you come home
Another noticeable behavior among pets who suffer from separation anxiety is when they are excessively excited and distracted when you return home. They typically follow you from room to room and exhibit excited behaviors like salivating and wetting themselves.
What to Do When Your Pet is Suffering from Separation Anxiety
A pet with separation anxiety is suffering from a serious condition that needs your understanding and patience. A lot of pet owners give up their pets because they become unmanageable and destructive. However, there are things you can do to mitigate your pet’s anxiety.
For mild cases of separation anxiety, here are some tricks you can do to your pets:
- Do not make a big fuss about leaving the house. Avoid excessive goodbyes and greetings.
- Distract your pets when you leave the house by leaving treats for it to find.
- Leave something to your pet that belongs to you and has your scent. This may be a used shirt or any article of clothing that you recently used.
For severe cases of separation anxiety, it is best to bring your pet to a trusted dog trainer. For a customized training plan designed for your pet’s specific condition, go to Positive Paws Pet Training, a company that offers pet training services in the St. Louis and St. Charles area.