SEPARATION ANXIETY

SEPARATION ANXIETY

Separation anxiety is a real health issue. It occurs in dogs and the clinical signs can be one or combination of the following: 1. Constant vocalization, usually a howling; 2. Destruction of things in the house- rugs, chairs, door jams; and 3. House soiling, either urine or feces or both. It only occurs when the owners are gone and in some circumstances, can occur when one particular owner is gone. It can start at any age and it is not the dog trying to punish the owner for being gone. The dog is genuinely anxious about being left alone.   It doesn’t always take a long time away for these behaviors to occur, sometimes just going to the store for a couple hours can trigger this anxiety. One possible cause of this is thought to be owners who keep their dog with them for everything – sleeping, working, playing, etc.. It is thought that the dog may bond so closely to the owner that it cannot cope with being alone. While this may be true for some dogs, it can also occur in older dogs. It is more common in dogs that are the only dog in a household, but occasionally can be an individual dog of a group that has these issues. The treatment is not punishment or isolation, rather it is treating the anxiety just as MD’s treat anxiety in humans. For dogs, Clomicalm (clomipramine) is labelled for treatment of separation anxiety. In more difficult cases, Prozac (fluoxetine) can be prescribed. In one case, adding a second dog to the household may control the anxiety and the dog could be taken off of drugs, however, if this doesn’t work, there is a second dog in the home which seems to be somewhat self-promoting for a veterinarian to recommend.   It is important that this condition be treated as early as possible for best results. The longer a behavioral disorder is allowed to go on, the longer it takes to come under control and in some cases, it will not be manageable.