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What is Canine Separation Anxiety?

A Manageable Disorder!

Canine separation anxiety is a neurological distress response to: separation from the person to whom the dog is attached, high degree of uncertainty of an outcome, or the probability of punishment. Brain chemistry plays a significant role in the development and progression of separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety are suffering and require effective behavioral management and medical intervention.

About 14% of canine patients in the average veterinary practice exhibit one or more signs of separation anxiety. The good news is that separation anxiety is a treatable disorder. A standard length of treatment duration is two months, with some dogs needing longer treatment times. Because dogs with separation anxiety are truly suffering and can do real harm to themselves, treatment is the only humane option. In all cases of canine separation anxiety, any form of reprimand or punishment is contraindicated and may actually increase the dog's anxiety.

Separation anxiety is usually seen in younger dogs, especially pets who are adopted from an animal shelter. It is also common in older dogs, who may become anxious when their owners are separated or even out of view. Many dogs are so strongly attached to their owners that they will follow them from room to room to maintain close proximity.

What are some of the symptoms of Separation Anxiety?

Vocal distress howling, barking, or whining Excessive licking of hair, pacing, circling
Inappropriate urination and/or defecation Excessive greeting behavior, pestering
Destructive behavior, like chewing, digging Hyper Salivation

How is Canine Separation Anxiety Diagnosed?

The behaviors associated with separation anxiety often occur shortly after the animal is left alone, a unique feature of separation anxiety.  A thorough examination by a licensed veterinarian is needed to definitively diagnose separation anxiety and rule out other diagnoses.

How is Canine Separation Anxiety Treated?

Anti-anxiety Medication Clomicalm & other anti-anxiety drugs alter behavior by its action on neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in fear and anxiety. Norepinephrine is involved with learning, memory, mood, arousal, and behavioral focus. Anti-anxiety drugs block the uptake of both of these neurotransmitters in the brain. Increased levels of serotonin reduce distress (fear) and associated signs in dogs with separation anxiety. Increased norepinephrine levels may stimulate the learning ability of some dogs, which may improve behavior modification.
Desensitization & counter-conditioning Consult an animal behaviorist for guidance. One method is to leave your dog for short periods and come right back. Don't stay away long enough for your dog to get upset. The idea is to lengthen the time gradually. It may help to vary the time some so your dog can't keep track of a "routine". Keep this up until your dog is comfortable with you gone for a reasonable length of time. Don't make a big deal over coming back in -- it is best to greet the dog quietly or ignore it. Once your dog can tolerate you being gone for an hour or two, it will probably be possible to stay away longer.

Credit: and Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital

All info is from internet sources and is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. C.A.R.E. is not a veterinary facility. Consult a licensed veterinarian if your pet exhibits any unusual symptoms or behavior.

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