Similar to people, pets can become anxious and stressed. Sometimes this stress can show up in the form of separation anxiety, which is a complex behavioral disorder displayed when an owner or other attachment figure leaves the pet.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
What causes anxiety in a dog is not certain, however, there are certain factors that put pets at a higher risk for developing separation anxiety. It is believed that pets taken from their mother too soon may have attachment problems, as well as pets who have experienced abuse, trauma, or abandonment. Another risk factor might be a pet who has had multiple owners.
Cat and Dog Separation Anxiety Symptoms
One sign that your dog or cat is suffering from separation anxiety is if he excessively follows you around or becomes over-excited when you return home. If a dog is suffering from separation anxiety, he may start excessively salivating, barking, whining, howling, or inappropriately defecating or urinating in the home when he is left alone. Dogs may also adapt destructive behaviors, such as chewing and digging in the home. He may try to prevent you from leaving or even stop eating. If your pet is experiencing an extreme case of anxiety, he may vomit or have diarrhea.
Cats suffering from separation anxiety may also urinate or defecate in inappropriate places, especially on places that are connected with the owner. They may vocalize and cry for attention, become depressed, and stop eating or drinking, and some of them may even become sick and start vomiting frequently. Some cats may start excessively grooming themselves, causing bald spots on their bodies.
How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Cats
Most pets will benefit from a combination of behavior modification along with anti-anxiety medication. Behavior modification includes teaching your pet independence and rewarding the times when he relaxes. You should also try to make your comings and goings less eventful by ignoring your pet for a short period of time before you leave and when you return. Remember that getting upset and trying to punish your pet will only make the situation worse.
There are non-prescription calming products that are formulated to help reduce stress. Rescue Remedy is an all-natural formula that uses flower essences to calm your pet and help him overcome a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. ThunderEase Dog Calming Diffuser Kit is an excellent calming product to ease stress, fear, anxiety, and tension in dogs. You might also find that pheromones like Comfort Zone for cats and ThunderEase® Dog Calming Collar for dogs help calm anxiety.
If your veterinarian feels like your pet has a serious case of separation anxiety, they may prescribe an anxiety reliever to help calm your pet. One commonly prescribed medication is Clomicalm, which treats separation anxiety and helps with behavioral problems such as inappropriate barking, elimination, and destructive behaviors.
If your dog or cat is used to a television or radio being on while you are home, it might be helpful if you leave one of them on when you leave the house. It might also help to give your pet more interactive toys to entertain and distract him while you’re gone.
If you need help with separation anxiety in dogs or cats, call us at 800.786.4751.
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