Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

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Seperation anxiety may be preventable with proper socialization and training when a puppyPuppies should be well socialized with other animals and people. Separation anxiety can result from suffering a traumatic experience, such as a major earthquake or becoming lost in unfamiliar surroundings.
Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. In cats, that behavior is often inappropriate elimination; in dogs, it's often separation anxiety. Dogs who act out when left alone may cause significant damage, to themselves or their surroundings, or may bark themselves into a froth-mouthed exhaustion. 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. Dogs who’ve been properly introduced to their crate tend to feel safe and secure in this private den.
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. In some cases, dogs prefer the sanctuary of a crate to being left alone in a big open house.
But while avoiding the litterbox often has a medical condition (or a couple of them) as a root cause, separation anxiety is in many ways the result of our asking a pack animal to do something for which he was never designed: to spend time alone. 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. 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. In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog.
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. A well adjusted puppy should do well either alone or with the family and will be less likely to have seperation anxiety in the future. 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.
Dogs that eliminate when owners are at home may not be completely housetrained or may have a medical problem.


Some dogs will attempt to escape or become extremely anxious when confined, so that destructiveness or house-soiling when a dog is locked up in a crate, basement, or laundry room, may be due to confinement or barrier anxiety and associated attempts at escape. In other situations fear or anxiety due to an external event (construction, storms, fireworks) may trigger destructive behaviors. Old dogs with medical problems such as loss of hearing or sight, painful conditions and cognitive dysfunction may become more anxious in general, and seek out the owner's attention for security and relief. Perhaps the best way to determine if the behaviors are due to the anxiety associated with the owner's departure is to make an audiotape or movie clip of the behavior when the dog is alone.
With separation anxiety you must reinforce the pet for settling down, relaxing and showing some independence, while attention seeking and following behaviors should never be reinforced.
Therefore, training should focus on extended and relaxed down stays and going to a bed or mat on command (see our 'Training Dogs - Settle and Relaxation Training' handout).
See our handout on 'Training Dogs – Learn to Earn and Predictable Rewards' for other examples. In addition, the pet must learn to accept progressively longer periods of inattention and separation while the owners are at home. On the other hand, some dogs learn that other signals indicate that you are not planning to depart (inhibiting cues) and therefore can help the dog to relax. If you can prevent your dog from observing any of these anxiety inducing pre-departure cues, or if you can train your dog that these cues are no longer predictive of departure, then the anxiety is greatly reduced. Even with the best of efforts some dogs will still pick up on "cues" that the owner is about to depart and react. Train your pet to associate these cues with enjoyable, relaxing situations (rather than the anxiety of impending departure).
Remember however, that attention at other times, especially on demand, encourages the dog to follow and pester rather than stay in its bed and relax.



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