Separation Anxiety in Dogs - by Lexy Marcellus, (RVT) Print
Written by Brian Adam   
Saturday, 02 February 2013 12:01

Separation Anxiety is one of the most common issues for dog owners. A fear of being left alone and/or separated from 'the pack', is a psychological, behavioral & emotional reaction to stimuli that animals encounter.

What causes separation anxiety?

There are many risk factors for separation anxiety. Thru include: coming from an adoption shelter, rescue group, or prior home.  Prior life as a stray, having a noise phobia, moving to different locations or changes in the people/pets that surround them.  It's important to note that bad behaviour your dog exhibits, is not caused by spite - but is in fact a  reaction to their current situation.

Signs of separation anxiety include: anxiousness as the owner prepares to leave, excessive vocalization, digging, chewing, and/or rearranging household objects.  Some dogs may aggressively growl & bite in an attempt to prevent people from leaving.  Self-injury, especially broken teeth, cuts in the mouth, and broken nails, may occur from escape attempts.  While others also urinate, defecate, salivate, pant, tremble, or do not eat or drink (while the owner is away).


Separation anxiety can be very challenging to diagnose, because of its' many possible causes.  Your veterinarian needs a medical history, physical exam  and sometimes lab tests to rule out possible contributing conditions - such as urinary tract, gastrointestinal, hormonal, metabolic, or seizure disorders.

TREATMENT for separation anxiety includes:

  • Increased exercise & play, even Obedience & Agility Training to build up confidence
  • Encouraging independence; discouraging constant close contact
  • Ignoring pestering and demanding behaviors; reinforcing calm behaviour

Make arrivals and departures low-key; ignore the dog for 30 minutes before leaving.  Stop punishment, as this increases the dog’s anxiety level.  Consider alternative measures, such as pet-sitters, doggy daycare, or taking them along if possible.

Consider behavioral modification training outlined by your vet.  Anti=anxiety medications are often beneficial, as well as nutraceuticals in foods &/or supplements.  You may even try non-pharmaceutical antianxiety products such as Anxiety Wrap (a stretchy body suit) and DAP (a synthetic calming pheromone).  Unfortunately, there's no quick fix and it may take several weeks to months before you can see any results.  By maintaining records of occurrence and its severity, it can really help your veterinary team make the best decisions for your dog. heart Lexy

Last Updated on Saturday, 02 February 2013 23:52