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 he 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 may occur when left alone. 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 typically manifests within the first 15 minutes after you leave the house and can range from mild to severe.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is manifested through excessive anxiety and stress when pets become separated from people close to them. This typically results to panic and happens in a prolonged period.
Reasons for Separation Anxiety
- A pet who is rarely on his own is left alone for the first time
- A move from one owner to another
- A pet experiences loss
- A change in routine occurs
- A new member joins the household ( a baby, a guest, new family member or another pet)
- A pet becomes too attached to his owner
If you suspect that your pet has separation anxiety, observe and watch out for these signs and behaviors:
When a dog with separation anxiety is left on his on in your house, you typically return to a mess of chewed items such paper, clothes, shoes and other household items especially those with your scent. Of course, typical puppy chewing must be ruled out.
Urinating and Defecating
If your dog is completely house trained yet urinates or defecates in the house in your absence, he may be experiencing separation anxiety. If a dog eliminates as well when you are present, it is probably due to lack of house training.
Howling and incessant barking
Many dogs typically bark when triggered. However, dogs with separation anxiety will howl, cry, whine and bark excessively when left alone or separated from the family. These types of vocalizations are usually persistent with the hope that you will come back soon.
Pacing can be a typical response in dogs when they are experiencing anxiety. Although it is a common behavior among pets in seeking your attention, it is also one of the ways they cope with their feelings of anxiety and stress. If pacing is due to separation anxiety, it usually occurs prior to an owner’s departure or absence.
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 or hypersalivation. Dogs with separation anxiety commonly hypersalivate when the owner is gone. If you discover that your dog’s chest is wet due to drool when you return, this could be a sign of separation anxiety.
Attempts to escape
A pet may attempt to escape from a confined area when left alone. He may chew or claw at openings, doors or windows. This can be dangerous since he may injury himself. With separation anxiety, “escape behavior” typically occurs when the owner is gone.
Refusal to eat
Some pets who suffer from separation anxiety will not eat food in the absence of their owners. However, this symptom in itself is not enough to determine separation anxiety. Examine all of the other behaviors that your pet is displaying in determining separation anxiety.
Anxiety when owners prepare to leave
More often than not, pets who suffer from separation anxiety will show signs of stress prior to the owners departure. Because pets are good at identifying routines, they know well before their family actually leaves. Dogs may pace, whine or drool prior to an owner leaving. Some dogs will actually try to prevent their family members from leaving.
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.
- Give your pet a special treat when you leave (such as a kong filled with cheese). This is only given in your absence.
- 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. Only give this to your pet if you are positive that he will not ingest it.
- Over the counter natural supplement can help decrease anxiety. (Talk with your veterinarian first.)
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.