Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

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For some dogs, the sound of car keys jingling in their owner’s hand is enough to send them into a spiral of panic that seemingly doesn’t end until their human walks back in the door. This article will discuss the indications and causes of separation anxiety, along with the most popular methods to help your dog overcome his fear. Many dogs act differently when they know their owner is getting ready to leave the house, but true separation anxiety is easily distinguishable from a misbehaving dog that is simply trying to get attention. Most dogs begin to show symptoms when you start your routine of leaving the house, like putting on shoes or opening the garage door. Many dogs that display the above behaviors do not have true separation anxiety, so don’t be too quick to diagnose your dog until you have ruled out other reasons your dog may be acting out.
Dogs with true separation anxiety have destructive behavior that is more than just temporary or an occasional slip up in behavior: barking or howling that lasts for hours on end, destruction of furniture that leads to bloody paws or broken teeth, and neurotic behavior that starts before you leave the house and doesn’t end immediately when you come home. Often, owners of puppies attribute their young pup’s destruction to separation anxiety, but in reality, chewing of shoes and having “accidents” indoors is the hallmark of a young (untrained) puppy, and teaching basic obedience commands along with crate training will usually resolve these juvenile problems.
Experts do not agree on what exactly causes some dogs to lose control when they are left alone, but statistics show that dogs from shelter environments and dogs that have had multiple owners suffer more so than dogs that have been raised by one family since puppyhood.
Some dog behavior experts argue that since dogs cannot understand the concept of time, they are more prone to panic when being left alone because they simply cannot fathom that you may or may not return. Only you can judge how severe your dog’s anxiety is, and you can try different treatments based on the severity of your dog’s behavior.
For mild cases, giving treats hidden in toys is enough to make your dog realize that being left along is actually a good thing, because that means he gets food.
Both desensitization and counterconditioning can be used for treatment of separation anxiety if you are willing to commit the time. While most experts agree that prescription medication should be a last resort for treating separation anxiety, there are a variety of dog anxiety medications on the market that can help Rover cope with being left alone.
Of course, be sure to discuss any medication with your veterinarian, and always try to use prescriptions as compliment (and not replacement) to behavioral training. If behavioral training is not progressing but you want to try a more holistic approach to treatment, consider other therapies available. In shelter environments, dogs that have been residents for months on end are subject to mental deterioration, which happens when dogs are not given the opportunity to exercise their bodies and minds. Dogs are creatures with acute emotions, and treating them like fish in a tank (that is, only providing them food and water and not giving them affection) can have sad consequences.
Instead of walking your dog after you get home work, try exercising him before you leave for the day to get him nice and tired. Purchase a calming playlist made specifically for dogs and leave it playing while you are away. Dogs feel secure and safe when they are in an environment shaped by routine and showered with love.
The information contained on this website meant to be a substitute for advice from your own veterinarian or dog trainer.
The idea is simple: the animal (or person) makes an association between an active substance, like a medication, and some neutral stimulus. That provided Hungarian ethologists Zso?fia Su?megi, Ma?rta Ga?csi, and Jo?zsef Topa?l with the perfect platform to find the placebo effect, if it exists in dogs.
The modified dog version of the strange situation had four stages: first the dog was introduced to a new room with its owner. After establishing the baseline, each dog had three conditioning trials, all on different days. By highlighting the environmental and procedural aspects of the drug administration, rather than explicitly linking the medication with owner separation, the researchers very cleverly assured their own success.
Help your clients take these steps to eliminate home destruction and, more important, canine anxiety when they leave their dogs at home alone. The goal of treating separation anxiety is to reduce a dog’s dependence on its owners. Help your clients spot the signs of separation anxiety by downloading and printing this client handout.
The underlying directive here is for the owners to ignore the dog upon arrival until it is relaxed.
Have the owners train the dog to assume a calm, relaxed behavior during gradually increasing periods of separation.
The owners begin by moving a short distance from the dog and then returning and rewarding it with attention or a treat. Finally, once the owners can go out of sight of the dog, they can gradually increase the time that they are not in sight of the dog in the same way they were increasing distance. Have the owners train the dog to assume calm, relaxed behavior during gradually increasing periods of separation as they leave the home.
The judicious use of medication can decrease a dog’s overall anxiety level and enable it to respond better to the behavioral tasks just outlined. Perform a complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry profile and thyroid panel before starting treatment. Benodiazepines such as diazepam, alprazolam and clorazepate are typically used in dogs with separation anxiety to treat panic behavior seen at time of departure to help ease the transition. Treating pet separation anxiety requires you to desensitize your pet so your pet is no longer anxious as you come and go. The Thundershirt is an affordable, drug-free solution for anxiety problems in dogs and cats. The Adaptil Collar for Dogs and Sentry Calming Collar for Dogs contain pheromones that mimic the pheromone that the mother dog produces to calm and reassure her puppies, which send the message that your dog is safe. Quiet Moments (for dogs) is a calming herbal tablet containing chamomile flower, passion flower, thiamine, ginger, and L-tryptophan.
HomeoPet Anxiety Relief is a homeopathic remedy with chamomile, valeriana, ignatia, and other ingredients. Prescription pharmaceuticals prescribed for pets with separation anxiety include Amitriptyline, Clomicalm (for dogs), Clomipramine, Fluoxetine, Diazepam, Alprazolam, Triazolam, Cyproheptadine, and Buspirone. Unfortunately, many pet owners do not realize that their own behavior is actually making their pet's separation anxiety symptoms worse. Normal puppy behavior, along with tips and tricks for helping your dog deal with his dilemma will also be discussed. Dogs that suffer from this type of anxiety feel truly distressed and have a physical response that cannot be feigned. For example, a dog that is eliminating in the house (especially is he was previously house trained) may have an undiagnosed medical condition.

Dogs are creatures of habit, so it is natural that they should become upset when their environment or routine is changed.
Mild separation anxiety may actually just be boredom, and can be easily cured by giving your dog puzzle-style toys or treats while you are away.
For this strategy to be effective, however, be sure to only offer these special toys and treats while you are away and take them back up shortly after you get home so that your dog associates the special treat with being alone. So when you progress to begin to cut your dog’s nails, you would offer a highly-desired treat like pieces of hot dog every 30 seconds or so; the goal here is for your dog to eventually look forward to (or at least tolerate) getting his nails cut, because this is the only time he gets hot dogs!
To start, you want to teach your dog that you will not always walk out the door when you start your regular routine of leaving the house.
If you have a highly anxious dog and you start this training by leaving the house for 10 hours, the damage to your dog’s psyche will be great.
Just as with the nail-cutting example, the goal is to train your dog that being left alone is a positive experience.
Many prescription drugs used to treat anxiety and depression in dogs actually belong to the same class of medication (and contain some of the same ingredients) as human medicine. Specialty clothing like Thudershirts can be very effective at treating anxiety in canines by supplying a calming pressure to your dog’s body while you are away. Typically, dogs with separation anxiety don’t need the company of their human, but any person.
Viewing your dog’s behavior may give you some insight into what sets him off, and perhaps will help you determine if there is any underlying issue. Dogs are pack animals by nature, so a great option for some dog lovers is to get a furry friend for their pup. If your job means that you are away from home the majority of the day, it is essential to make sure your dog is feeling fulfilled during your time together. Many dogs do not like silence, and calming music or other background noise can alleviate anxiety.
Often, dogs act out to get attention, and even though the attention you give him is negative, it is reinforcing his behavior to continue. Sadly, many dogs that are surrendered to shelters or abandoned feel insecure and unconfident.
They weren't necessarily asking whether using a placebo effect was a useful treatment for separation anxiety; instead, they used separation anxiety as a means to see whether dogs are susceptible to the placebo effect. To avoid any potential confounds, they ruled out dogs who were already taking medications or who had any known health problems. That's not as crazy an idea as it might seem; the dog-owner relationship has often been compared to the parent-child relationship, after all. Half the dogs were given a dose of Sedalin hidden in a piece of liverwurst before each trial, and the others were given a vitamin inside a piece of liverwurst. The idea was that the researchers wanted to create an association between the dogs' relaxed feelings and the testing room, rather than between the medication and the owner's disappearance. The focus was on the dogs' inner psychological state, rather than on the separation itself.
They should not look at, talk to or touch the dog at times when it is exhibiting these attention-seeking behaviors. These behaviors are clinical signs of anxiety, so punishment, especially after the fact, will increase the dog’s anxiety level. The owners should make a list of activities they perform before leaving home that signal they are leaving and result in the dog getting more and more anxious. They should repeat this distance until it is clear that the dog is very relaxed and then gradually increase the distance until the owners are near the exit of the room. The owners should never force the dog to remain behind when they leave the room if they have not worked up to that level of departure. Ciribassi list the clinical signs of separation anxiety the important differential diagnoses to rule out. Repeat the CBC and serum chemistry profile about four to six weeks after treatment has been initiated.
It is unclear which of these effects is responsible for the reduction in anxiety that occurs with its use. Desensitizing requires you to start with behaviors that don't cause anxiety and gradually progress to behaviors that have caused anxiety in the past and you want your pet to accept. Individual homeopathic remedies used for separation anxiety include phosphorus, lachesis, phosphoric acid, lycopodium, pulsatilla, arsenicum, argentum nitricum, and kali carbonicum. Your veterinarian may suggest homeopathic medications, such as HomeoPet Anxiety Relief, or prescription medications, such as Amitriptyline, Clomicalm, Clomipramine, Fluoxetine, Diazepam, Alprazolam, and Buspirone. Provide the boarding establishment with the calming pheromones Adaptil Collar for Dogs and Sentry Calming Collar for Cats because they can help relax your pet.
Sometimes, curing your pet of separation anxiety requires you to change your habits as well. Most pets with separation anxiety are very excited when their owner returns, so your pet's greeting behavior may be excessively exuberant. Pets with separation anxiety follow us around, looking increasingly more despondent the closer we get to leaving.
Dogs with severe separation anxiety can cause extensive damage to your home and even harm themselves with this destructive behavior. It is common for young dogs to chew shoes, furniture, or practically anything they can get their paws on. Dogs that have experienced loss (whether that is the death of an owner or simply being given away) certainly suffer the most, which goes to prove that our canine companions hurt and feel like we do (although not in the same sense or way). Every day that your dog sees you leaving (and ultimately returning), he will be assured and become less anxious.
Boredom destruction is more common in highly intelligent dogs that are not okay with a sedentary lifestyle. The eventual goal here is for your dog to look forward to, or at least accept, being left alone. For example, if a dog is terrified of his getting his nails cut, then muzzling him and pinning him down to the ground while you cut his nails will certainly only validate his fear, indeed, making it worse! And while a daily pill may help your dog significantly, most experts agree that it is a poor long-term choice because these medications can have severe side effects such as seizures, allergic reactions, aggression or other changes in mood. If you purchase a webcam that also has speakers, you can offer reassurance to your dog throughout the day. While some dogs actually prefer the company of their human to another dog, it certainly can’t hurt to try and offer your dog some companionship.

Dogs feed off our emotions, so if we are frazzled or hurried, they sense it and can become distressed. If you give a dog at second chance at life and take him into your home from one of these situations, be aware that he may experience a degree of separation anxiety because of his past. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.
Recent research with rats challenged that assumption, and now it looks like placebos can fool dogs too. After the treatment is administered several times, the procedure can be offered without the active ingredient. The pharmacological aspect of treatment for severe anxiety in dogs typically involves a drug called Sedalin, which is a tranquilizer. While the owners all provided informed consent, they were not told whether their dogs would be receiving the Sedalin or a vitamin instead. As expected, the dogs given the medication were more relaxed in general, including when the owner left the room, than were the dogs given a vitamin. Consistent with the placebo effect, those dogs who had previously received the Sedalin still showed the same relaxed behaviors, despite not being administered the drug itself.
These therapeutic interventions can be costly, and there are welfare considerations involved in continually treating dogs with anti-anxiety medications. They add that more research will be necessary to determine what procedural elements are most effective in inducing the placebo effect in dogs.
About five to 10 minutes before departure, the owners can give a toy stuffed with a treat to distract the dog away from the act of the owners departing from the home. Again, each step should be repeated until the dog is clearly comfortable with each level of departure.
This involves using a signal, cue or marker so that the dog realizes that these practice departures are just that—only practice and not the real thing.
Once the signs of separation anxiety have demonstrated significant improvement, allow an additional two to three months and then begin weaning the dog from the drug by decreasing the dose by 25 percent every three to four weeks until the dog is safely off the medication or when clinical signs return.
Unlike many products for pet anxiety, Thundershirt does not contain any pheromones or drugs, so it helps calm your pet without making him or her lethargic. This pheromone sends the same signal your dog got as a puppy snuggling with his or her mother.
If you can't lock your pet in a crate to prevent him or her from being destructive when you're not home, use herbs, homeopathics, and pheromones, or get a prescription medication from your veterinarian. Other pets are easily upset by wandering cats and dogs and become more anxious if they can see them in the yard. Provide calming herbs, such as Composure Liquid MAX or Quiet Moments (for dogs), and arrange for your pet to have plenty of exercise and human interaction. Below are a couple of frequently asked questions about separation anxiety in dogs and cats.
Luckily, there are many options available to treat separation anxiety in dogs that range from training to medication based on the severity of your pup’s symptoms.
This knack to gnaw on anything and everything (including your fingers!) is natural and is not a symptom of separation anxiety. These dogs (such as Border Collies and Poodles) often need a “job” to do, so in addition to leaving them with a Kong-style toy that will occupy their mind, be sure that your dog is getting daily exercise, at the very minimum, a brisk 20 minute walk every day.
In the scenario of desensitization, you want to teach your dog that getting his nails cut is not a scary experience. And remember that the more active and more intelligent your dog is, the harder it may be to train him. Often, calming prescriptions work by making your dog drowsy, so many owners find they are able to wean their dog off medication once he has become accustomed to being left alone.
The most important thing you can give your dog is patience as you work through this challenge together, and he will repay your kindness with unconditional love. The dogs' behavior during the test trial depended on whether they'd been given sedatives during the prior trials.
Clomipramine can also lower the seizure threshold in dogs with a previous history of seizures. Once the signs of separation anxiety have demonstrated significant improvement, allow an additional two to three months, and then begin weaning the dog from the drug by decreasing the dose by 25 percent every three to four weeks until the dog is safely off the medication or when clinical signs return. If anxiety occurs, stop what you're doing and go back to the step that did not upset your pet.
Thundershirt is also great for dogs and cats with fear of thunder or fireworks (or any loud noise), travel anxiety, crate anxiety, litter box problems, barking problems, hyperactivity, leash pulling, and even as a general training tool. So instead of jumping right into it, start by leaving the nail clippers out to where you dog can see them and even smell them. If you can make a habit of this, your dog will not be prone to panic when you pick up your keys, but again, this type of behavior doesn’t happen overnight, so patience is a must.
Dogs are certainly capable of learning, but this training can takes weeks (and more commonly, months) to make a difference in your dog’s behavior. Smart and energetic dogs are typically unhappy being left alone all day, compared to a more laid-back breed like a Bulldog that may be perfectly content to snooze solo on the couch all day. It's all a bit contrived, but assessments of a dog's behavior in each of these situations reveals important information about how stressful it is to be separated from its owner.
Recommended crates for dogs include The Super Dog Crate with Cozy Bed and iCrates (Single Door).
If you want separation anxiety to cease, it is better to ask your pet to sit or come, and reward him or her for proper behavior, than to soothe your pet when he or she is anxious. Thus, pets with separation anxiety begin barking, yowling, destroying furniture, or defecating right after we leave.
Most dogs will grow out of the intensive chewing phase around six months of age, at which time you can start to leave your dog out of his crate for short periods of time while you are away. Additionally, you could pick up your dog’s paw (without the clippers) so that he gets used to the touch.

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