Identifying Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Many cases of separation anxiety in dogs go untreated. Sadly, pet owners become frustrated with their pet and release them to a shelter, find a new home or keep them kenneled for long hours because of the dog's destructive behavior.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Dogs with separation anxiety tend to follow their owners around at every opportunity. When you prepare to leave the home, the dog may act nervous and tense.

After you have left, dogs with separation anxiety commonly dig at flooring near doors in an escape to get out and find you. They may chew or dig at window framing and door frames.

Neighbors complain about your dog barking and whining incessantly while you are away. Pets with separation anxiety act out by destroying owner's belongings or urinating inside. Dogs with extreme separation anxiety often vomit or have diarrhea.

Why Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety

There are numerous reasons why separation anxiety in dogs develops. A leading reason involves the age at which the dog left its mother. Puppies removed from their mother before the age of eight weeks have a higher risk of developing separation anxiety.

Dogs shuffled to new home after forming a bond with a family for an extended amount of time frequently develop separation anxiety. Abandonment occurred once and, as a result, the dogs fear separation from their master.

Though there are valid reasons for re-homing a dog, including death of the former owner, expect the dog to require time to adjust to the change.

Breeds More Likely to Develop Separation Anxiety

People often prefer mixed breeds to purebreds because they are less likely to develop genetic problems like hip dysplasia or bloat. However, mixed breed dogs more commonly show signs of separation anxiety.

Dogs with friendly dispositions, like Labs, show a predisposition for separation anxiety. When kenneled during long vacations or adopted by new owners, they will likely develop separation anxiety.

Ways to Help your Dog

Obedience training reduces the risk of separation anxiety in dogs. Anxious pets often lack training of simple commands like "sit," "stay" and "lay." If your dog learns discipline and control, he/she is less likely to use destructive behaviors.

Pampering your pet increases the risk for separation anxiety in dogs. Make sure you teach your dog that you will give him/her attention on your schedule, but not the dog's. Do not let the dog crawl into your lap seeking attention. Train the dog to accept attention when offered, but begging or acting out is not rewarded.

Never punish your dog if he/she does destroy items while you are away. Simply clean the mess and move on. Do not feel guilt-ridden and then spoil the dog the second you walk in the door either. Do what you need to do. When you are ready, pay attention to the dog.

Medications that Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs

In severe cases of separation anxiety in dogs, medications prove useful. There are three frequently prescribed drugs: Clomicalm, Melatonin and Reconcile.

Clomicalm's active ingredient, clomipramine hydrochloride, is similar to Prozac. It reduces seratonin levels in the brain resulting in a calmer state of existence. Reconcile is virtually the same as Prozac and is FDA approved. Fluoxetine hydrochloride, the same medication found in Prozac, also reduces seratonin levels. Both prescription pills require a daily dose and take a few weeks before the body responds to the medications.

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally within the body. It successfully treats separation anxiety in dogs because it causes drowsiness. Scheduling a dose before you leave ensures the dog sleeps while you are away.