As humans, we’re used to battling anxiety. Whether it’s situational and temporary, or you’ve managed anxiety as a consistent part of your life, we’re used to working through and balancing it. We can recognize what it is and understand its effects on our life. But did you know that your dog can also deal with anxiety?
One of the most common forms of anxiety your dog can deal with is separation anxiety. This is where a dog becomes distressed and may act out in the absence of its owner, or the person they’re most attached to. It can be a frustrating issue to deal with, and can be a scary experience for your pet.
In today’s blog post we’re going to discuss:
- How to tell if your dog has separation anxiety
- What causes separation anxiety in dogs?
- How to help your dog with separation anxiety
How to tell if your dog has separation anxiety
Separation anxiety often presents itself through behavioral issues, which are easiest to pinpoint if you have to leave your dog for any amount of time. It can be harder to identify separation anxiety if you happen to be with your dog on a regular basis (e.g. if you work from home). Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help determine whether you may be dealing with separation anxiety or not:
- Is your dog destructive if left alone for any amount of time?
- Does your dog refuse to eat if left alone?
- Is their body language panicky and anxious when you’re gone?
- Does your dog bark or whine excessively if you leave them?
- Does your house-trained dog go to the bathroom inside of the house if separated from you?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, it’s probably worth talking to a veterinarian about your dog’s behavior. Of course, some of this behavior can be a normal part of the puppy stage of a dog’s life. But if your dog has outgrown the puppy stage and is still exhibiting this kind of behavior, there are a lot of different ways a professional can help you find some options. Separation anxiety can be a frustrating issue to work through, but you and your dog don’t have to figure it out alone.
What causes separation anxiety in dogs?
There are a number of risk factors that could contribute to your dog dealing with separation anxiety. Knowing why your dog may have separation anxiety won’t magically cure them, but it could give you a place to start looking for answers with your veterinarian.
- Rescued from a shelter: Animal shelters do amazing work for animals in our community every single day, but the reality is that a shelter can still be a stressful environment for an animal. It’s a place filled with foreign smells, sounds, and sights. This can be an overwhelming situation for a dog, and lead them to cling to the human that rescues them from it all.
- Being left alone as a puppy: If a dog was left alone more often than they should have been as a puppy, this can also lead to an unhealthy level of clinginess that can turn into separation anxiety. Dogs, but especially puppies, depend on their owners for their needs like food, water, enrichment and playtime, and socialization. If a puppy is ignored a lot when they’re developing and learning, they can become overly attached to anyone who pays them any attention at all.
- Experiencing a traumatic event alone: If your dog has ever experienced a traumatic event while by themselves it could also lead to separation anxiety. This could be an injury, a previous owner passing away, or physical abuse.
There are a lot of potential reasons that could cause your dog to develop separation anxiety. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be permanent. There are many ways you can work with your dog to help resolve their issues with anxiety.
How to help your dog with separation anxiety
It’s important to have a conversation with your veterinarian about your dog’s behavioral issues, as they could point to more serious problems. But know that there are a lot of easy, inexpensive ways you can try to help your dog with separation anxiety before resorting to more expensive or complicated methods.
Find ways to distract your dog any time you have to leave them home alone. This could be through toys and puzzles that keep them engaged and offer them a reward. Calming music or white noise has also proven to be a useful distraction for anxious dogs. Calming treats can also be a good, simple solution.
Creating a calming environment for your dog can help teach them that it’s okay to be left alone. There are multiple products you can buy to help calm your pet during your absence, including anxiety wraps and calming pheromones.
Uneventful Departures & Arrivals
When you’re leaving your dog or coming home to your dog, don’t turn it into a big event. Don’t treat them differently, say goodbye, or get them over excited upon your return home. If your dog starts acting out when you come home because they’re so excited, don’t give them any extra attention until they’ve calmed back down.
Don’t Punish Them
It’s very important to remember never to punish your pet for being anxious. If they act out or are destructive in any way, it can be very frustrating, but punishing them will only make it worse. They’re scared and don’t understand what’s happening. Be patient and work with a professional behaviorist if needed.
Identify Their Triggers
If you’re at the point of trying to find ways to help your dog with their anxiety, then you already know they deal with it at some level. But oftentimes there are specific triggers that can make it worse. Does a crate help your dog’s anxiety, or make it worse? Do they feel better with the lights on or off? Making a list of your dog’s triggers can help you figure out how to help them the most.
Ultimately, it’s always best to speak with your vet about your dog’s separation anxiety. There are anti-anxiety prescriptions that can help if your dog experiences a severe case of separation anxiety that goes beyond environmental factors. If your vet and you decide that medicating your dog is the best solution for them, don’t feel bad. You’re helping your dog find a way to enjoy their life, which in turn makes your life happier and less frustrating.
Separation anxiety in dogs
Owning a dog with separation anxiety doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Cases can range from mild to severe, but there are answers and options no matter what level your dog deals with separation anxiety. The solution could range from simple environmental changes to an anti-anxiety prescription written by your veterinarian.
At PetWellClinic, our veterinarians can help you determine if your dog has separation anxiety, and provide some basic solutions to help your dog with their separation anxiety. It’s important for your dog to have a physical exam when they’re exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, just in case there are bigger problems we can’t see. We can also refer you to behaviorists who can go more in-depth as to why your dog has separation anxiety and specific ways to treat separation anxiety in dogs. We do everything in our power to help you and your dog find answers.
We also offer a variety of dog wellness packages to make life a little easier for both you and your favorite furry friend. There’s no need to call to make an appointment. All of our locations offer convenient walk-in visits. Our goal is to make every visit to PetWellClinic as stress-free as possible for both you and your pet. Stop by and visit one of our locations when it’s most convenient for you.