Home Alone – Separation Anxiety in Companion Dogs

One out of every six dogs may suffer from separation anxiety. These dogs panic when left alone. Often these dogs behave perfectly when family members are home yet appear guilty when family members come home. Separation anxiety may be seen in young dogs who never fully adapt to being separated from their owners, dogs that have been re-homed from one household to another and in dogs with other anxiety disorders such as noise phobias; it can also develop after a change in the household or schedule.

Diagnosis and Clinical Signs

Diagnosis of separation anxiety typically includes one or more signs of destructiveness, excessive vocalization and house soiling. The hallmark of separation anxiety versus other types of anxiety is that these signs occur immediately following departure and may be most dramatic following unexpected departures.

While evidence of destructive behaviors or house soiling would be obvious when family members return home other symptoms such as excessive vocalization, which may not be realized except when your neighbors are disturbed and they decide to let you know.

Destructive behaviors are generally associated with escape attempts or destruction near doors or windows where the family routinely exits. Destruction may also be associated with personal items of specific family members or targeted furniture or molding. This behavior occurs when family members leave. This is different than actions resulting from boredom such as getting into the trash or chewing on socks and underwear.

House soiling (urine and stool accidents) that is due to separation anxiety will occur shortly after people leave, and that should be distinguished from when it happens after long periods of time. Video monitoring is useful to characterize signs and severity of separation anxiety.
Additional signs supporting a diagnosis of separation anxiety are ones that begin when the owner prepares to depart; when the dog needs to be with someone at all times and follows people when the owners are at home; salivation; and little or no interest in food when the owner leaves.

If you think your companion canine is suffering from separation anxiety, Urban Animal can help. Call us and schedule an appointment today.

About the author: Hilary Granson

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