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     Dog and Pet Separation Anxiety 

What is separation anxiety? It is probably different for every pet that experiences it. But, the usual signs are that the pet becomes frantic and/or destructive when the owner leaves them alone.

This can be seen as scratches on the doors, pillows or furniture or other household items being chewed up or destroyed, soiling in the house when usually well potty trained, extreme vocalization and general distress.

What causes this? Truthfully, we probably are the cause. We train our pets in to this behavior often. When home, the pet (usually a dog-cats are much more independent) is always with us, by our side, in our lap, being held, etc... Then when we leave, the animal becomes scared as their constant companion in missing.

Some dogs can be destructive just out of boredom, which is different than separation anxiety. Such dogs as Jack Russell Terriers and other high energy, herding or working breeds if locked in a small apartment or house just get "stir crazy". To relieve the boredom, they play with such "toys" as pillows or cushions or other destructible objects.

Cats can soil in the house if stimulated into fear or aggression, such as from loud noises or cat fights outside.

How does one deal with separation anxiety in a pet? Firstly, it is best to not train them into this by making sure there is time when you are home that they are separated from you. This can also be put in as a practice if the animal already experiences separation anxiety. Do so on a gradient-small periods of time at first and build up to longer periods. The same can be done to train the pet in regard to you actually leaving. Leave for a minute or two and come back. Do both very unexcitedly. Then next time leave a bit longer, the next a bit longer, and so on.

When you leave make sure to not make a big deal of it. Same when you come home. Enter quietly and don't rush to the pet and console or scold (if been bad). Wait a few minutes before addressing your beloved friend to keep this from being a highly emotional event.

It has been suggested to give a treat when leaving so as to communicate that your going isn't a bad thing, but one that involves a tasty reward. (Don't give a treat when coming home if the pet has been bad. This would reinforce the bad behavior).

I find animals to be quite smart and many do understand what we tell them. I have a cat that sasses me when I come home if I dont tell him where I am going and for how long when I leave. He doesn't do so if I tell him on my way out. It certainly cannot hurt to inform your pet of such details when you go.

Of course, put anything tempting or destructible in a place the pet cannot get to while you are gone.

Don't punish your dog (or cat) if they soil in the house. Realize this is a body response to the emotional distress your pet has. Also, realize scratches on the door are just indications the pet is trying to reach and be with you.

DO NOT EVER let anyone talk you in to using antidepressants on your pet. These drugs have four to five pages of fine print of warnings and side effects in the Physician's Desk Reference. Most of the side effects cannot be evaluated in a non-speaking patient such as a dog or cat. In people they are known to increase suicidal thoughts and there is increasing evidence of their link to violent acts (for example, all school shootings that have unsealed records show the shooters had been on such antidepressants or ADD type drugs at the time of the shooting.) If by chance, your pet is on these drugs and you chose to take them off, do so under the supervision of your veterinarian. It must be done so gradually to avoid serious complications.

I don't ever recommend drug handlings of behavior problems as usually it is a training-and therefore patience and work-issue. Also, many "behavior problems" have a medical cause, so be sure to take your dog or cat to a veterinarian if any new behavior appears, especially a negative one. Insist ,a thorough exam and tests be done before having it ruled a behavior issue.

If one MUST use some sort of sedative ask your veterinarian about alternative things like herbal formulas.

I hope you don't have to deal with the above problem, but if you do, I hope this helps.

RECOMMENDED ENTERTAINMENT: Take your dog for a walk or play with a safe cat toy that gets them to play or chase.

RECOMMENDED PRODUCT: If you really need something to calm your dog or cat while handling a behavioral problem, consider Nutricalm for dogs or cats. See http://www.petnutritioninfo.com/products.html (Please note-some out of USA areas consider certain herbs drugs or will not allow importation of formulas containing them. Check out your countries rules if ordering outside the USA.)

May you and your pets be happy and healthy,

Dr. Jan

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