Sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Vet Corner | Feature Story - with Dr Kate Nor­man, Vet­eri­nar­ian

WE breed dogs to be our close com­pan­ions.

Be­cause of this, the ma­jor­ity of dogs pre­fer the com­pany of peo­ple over other dogs, and as a species they are very good at read­ing hu­man body lan­guage.

But work and so­cial com­mit­ments fre­quently mean our dogs need to spend time on their own.

Nor­mal dogs cope fine with time alone, usu­ally spend­ing the hours rest­ing or sleep­ing.

Com­mon fear­ful and anx­ious be­hav­iors in­clude house soil­ing, bark­ing ex­ces­sively, de­struc­tive be­hav­ior to their en­vi­ron­ment and them­selves, drool­ing, rest­less­ness, pac­ing and re­luc­tance to eat/drink.

Some dogs with anx­i­ety do not cope on their own, be­come very dis­tressed and may even panic.

Some­times it is ob­vi­ous if the dog is creat­ing a mess or the neigh­bours are com­plain­ing.

At other times it is not so easy to di­ag­nose be­cause the be­hav­iour oc­curs only when you are not there.

If you are wor­ried that your dog suf­fers from sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, set up a video cam­era or we­b­cam and record what they are do­ing when you are not home.

Sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety can be suc­cess­fully man­aged from a va­ri­ety of an­gles, but in se­vere cases, med­i­ca­tion may be necessary.

Pro­vid­ing en­joy­able ac­tiv­i­ties for your dog while they are on their own can be use­ful, such as toys and food.

Try to en­cour­age more in­de­pen­dent be­hav­iour by chang­ing the way you in­ter­act with your dog and al­ter your de­par­tures and ar­rivals, such as pack­ing your things the night be­fore, or lim­it­ing your in­ter­ac­tion with your pet be­fore you leave.

Sim­i­larly, de­lay greet­ing your pet un­til they are calm and re­laxed.

Ob­tain­ing a sec­ond dog only oc­ca­sion­ally helps a dog that is suf­fer­ing from sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, most dogs that suf­fer from the con­di­tion will not be com­forted by the pres­ence of an­other dog.

If you want to find out if an­other dog will help, trial it first by “bor­row­ing” a dog for a short pe­riod, this could be a friend or fam­ily mem­bers pet.

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that there is rarely a “quick fix” for be­havioural prob­lems in an­i­mals and they of­ten re­quire a lot of time and pa­tience.

Signs of sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety can also be signs of med­i­cal dis­ease, so visit your vet­eri­nar­ian for a well­ness exam and ba­sic blood work, and to dis­cuss op­tions.

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