Posts Tagged ‘separation anxiety in dogs’

I’ve written about dogs and fear, and now we’ll talk about pets and anxiety.

To start, what is the difference between fear, anxiety, and phobia in pets?
Fear is a natural response to a stimulus that is present or proximal. In other words, the fear object is a “clear and present danger.”
Anxiety is apprehension of an anticipated danger or threat; it is a response to an idea, rather than an object. 
Phobia is an excessive, irrational fear, without presence of a true threat.

Signs of Anxiety in Dogs

  • panting
  • hypersalivation
  • hiding
  • escape behaviors
  • barking 
  • trembling

Typical Causes of Anxiety in Dogs

  • noise (fire alarms, fireworks)
  • thunderstorms
  • separation from owner
  • general anxiety disorders
  • traveling
  • boarding
  • grooming
  • vet visits

Signs of Anxiety in Cats

  • hiding
  • eliminating outside litterbox
  • aggression (hissing, spitting)
  • urine spraying
  • overgrooming / fur pulling
  • recurrent infections

Typical Causes of Anxiety in Cats

  • change (new people, pets, litter, litterbox, food, furniture)
  • illness
  • pain
  • aging
  • confinement
  • noises
  • traveling
  • vet visits

As a result of untreated anxiety disorders or phobias, pets can develop undesirable behaviors. These behaviors can cause the pet owner to consider euthanasia or relinquishment of the animal.

Top Reasons for Pet Relinquishment

  • house soiling
  • destruction of property
  • hyperactivity
  • aggression

What can be done about anxiety in pets? We will discuss options in Part 2 of Understanding Anxiety in Pets. Stay tuned!

If you suspect that your pet is showing signs of anxiety, Contact Us, so we can schedule an appointment to discuss your pet’s behavior today.

Est. 1973

Read Full Post »

Few dogs are always perfect, but aggressiveness or destructive activity, especially on a regular basis, should be addressed with a professional trainer or animal behaviorist.

     A leading cause of pet abandonment is poor behavior. 

  • Negative behavior may be due to medical causes such as pain or organic dysfunction. 
  • Or the cause may be a traumatic event the pet has suffered, such as abuse, house burglary, dog fight, etc. 
  • Some dogs are not properly socialized during early puppyhood; this, combined with a lack of proper obedience training, can cause it to act aggressively in adulthood. 
  • A dog’s breed should also be considered, as many working-breed dogs require a job or some sort of activity to keep them occupied (see next bullet point.) 
  • All dogs require human companionship, to feel they are a part of the “pack.”  Left to its own devices, a dog that is bored or ignored can become destructive.

Medical causes of poor behavior should be ruled out first.  The pet owner may wish to then contact a professional trainer or implement an at-home behavior modification program.  Some veterinary companies have introduced medications that are meant to be used as training aids for dogs that suffer separation anxiety.  Two of the most commonly used drugs are Clomicalm and Reconcile.  Both drugs come with training instructions which should be followed on a consistent basis by each member of the family.  Neither drug is meant to control aggression in dogs.

     Owners who are considering euthanizing an aggressive or destructive pet may first try placing the pet in a boarding kennel or other temporary home for two to four weeks.*  The owner should then gauge his feelings during the pet’s absence.  Does the owner feel relieved the pet is gone?  Does he or she long for the pet’s return?  Does the dog’s absence inspire the owner to continue searching for a solution?  Or is the household better off without the pet?  The answers to these questions can help determine whether the pet should be returned to its household or placed with a new family. 

     *The act of kenneling the dog is not meant to modify its behavior.  Rather, the purpose of kenneling is to allow the owner to experience and examine his or her feelings about living without the pet.

     In the case of aggressive dogs, care should always be taken so that no one in the former home or foster home is injured.  Owners are urged to contact a professional trainer who has a record of success and humane methods of working with aggressive pets.   

     Finally, how does your pet compare to the following list of behavior standards?  Is there room for improvement?

  1. Friendly toward people, including well-behaved children.
  2. Friendly toward other friendly dogs.
  3. Does not become anxious if left alone for a reasonable period.
  4. Eliminates appropriately.
  5. Readily gives up control of food, toys, and other objects to owner.
  6. Relaxed during normal handling and touching.
  7. Calms down quickly after being startled or getting excited.
  8. Not overly fearful of normal events.
  9. Barks when appropriate, but not excessively.
  10. Plays well with people, without becoming too rough.
  11. Plays well with other dogs.
  12. Plays with its own toys and doesn’t damage owner’s possessions often.
  13. Affectionate without being needy.
  14. Adapts to change with minimal problems.
  15. Usually responds to owner’s requests and commands, such as sit, stay, come.

(From JAVMA 2004; 255(4): 506-513 and Veterinary Forum, June 2008, P. 28)

Read Full Post »