Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

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Canine Separation Anxiety Dogs are social animals that form strong bonds with people, so it is not surprising that they may feel somewhat anxious when separated from their social group. Separation anxiety may be manifested as destruction of the owner's property and other behaviors that may be harmful for the dog or annoying for people sharing the dog's immediate environment. It is important to realize that dogs with separation anxiety are not doing these things to get even with the owner for leaving, out of boredom, or due to lack of obedience training.
The onset of separation anxiety sometimes occurs after the dog is exposed to an experience that disrupts its social bond. Separation anxiety may be confused with other separation-related behavior problems that occur in the owner's absence.
It also has been reported that mixed breed dogs appear to suffer from separation anxiety more commonly than purebred dogs. It is possible that some dogs are genetically predisposed to develop stronger than normal attachment to members of their social group. To reduce the tension, dogs may engage in destructive behavior, house soiling, and distress vocalization. Dogs with separation anxiety may become so distressed in their owners' absence that they urinate or defecate in the house. Many owners erroneously feel that if separation is so stressful, then they should spend more time with their dog before leaving. A decrease in some fear and anxiety has been seen in conditions when some dogs are switched from a high protein, high energy food to a low protein (16 to 22 percent), "all-natural" diet (with no artificial preservatives). Audio or video recordings of your dog's behavior when you are away can help confirm a diagnosis of separation anxiety and can be helpful to allow you to monitor her improvement.

Dogs should never be punished for the physical consequences of their distress when separated from you.
In addition to behavioral modification, some dogs may actually need medication to help ‘re-train’ their brains to not feel anxiety during periods of separation.  While giving Prozac or similar medications may sound extreme, it may help to reduce the estimated 5 million dogs whom are abandoned or euthanized yearly. Separation anxiety can adversely affect or even destroy the relationship between dog and owner.  If you need help with this problem, call Ansley Animal Clinic to schedule an appointment to discuss treatment options.
Owners of dogs that show separation distress are often nurturing, empathetic people who indulge their dog. A lack of stimulation leads some dogs to engage in excessive and destructive "exploring," barking and other nuisance behavior. However, geriatric dogs may develop separation anxiety in response to physical discomfort accompanying old age. Every time a dog with separation anxiety becomes anxious when its owner leaves, the distress she feels is reinforced until she becomes absolutely frantic every time she is left alone.
For dogs that display "barrier frustration," the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. They may act ‘needy’ or ‘clingy.’  Dogs with anxiety become upset when their owners prepare to leave and act overly enthusiastic upon return. These dogs become less independent and more emotionally attached to the owners as a consequence of their infirmity. However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive.
It is important to randomize all the cues indicating departure (clothing, physical and vocal signals, interactions with family members, other pets, and so on).

Exercise helps to dissipate anxiety and provides constructive interaction between you and your dog. Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs It is widely held that dogs with a dysfunctional background (adopted from shelters, puppy mills, pet stores, dogs that have had multiple owners or traumatic handling early in life) are more prone to separation anxiety. Presentation of Canine Separation Anxiety Unwanted behavioral signs of separation anxiety are only seen when the owner is absent, or when the dog is prevented from being close to the owner (at night, for instance). Make a list of the things you normally do before leaving for the day (and anxiety occurs) and the things done before a short time out (and no anxiety occurs).Then mix up the cues.
The dog with separation anxiety is distinguished by signs of distress when left alone and over-attachment when the owner is present. Under such circumstances, a needy dog is in a high state of anxiety because she wants to be with her owner and is prevented from doing so. Even if your dog has a large yard to run in all day, the aerobic exercise will be beneficial since most dogs will not tire themselves if left to their own devices. Medication for Dogs with Separation Anxiety Medication is often used in conjunction with the above treatment strategies and is generally helpful. When performed correctly, this program can be very helpful in resolving separation anxiety.

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