Managing Pet Separation Anxiety in Houston
As your veterinarian, we’re as concerned about your pet’s mental health as we are their physical health. Pet separation anxiety is a common problem for many of our best friends, especially dogs, and tends to become more pronounced during back-to-school season. Whether it’s children going back to school or pet parents returning to their teaching jobs, pets will inevitably have to spend more time alone, and this change can be very hard for them (and for you, too).
Common Behaviors Associated with Separation Anxiety
Dogs with separation anxiety typically exhibit these behaviors:
- Clinginess when you’re around
- Vocalizing (barking, howling, whining)
- Eating less
- Having accidents in the house
- Destruction of furniture and other parts of the home
- Attempts to escape
- Digging (if they are out in the yard)
How to Alleviate Moderate to Severe Anxiety
Depending on the level of your pet’s anxiety, treatment can take time. It’s also important that you contact our animal hospital and let us know about your pet’s behaviors so we can rule out any health problems first, then work with you to find a mode of treatment with the best chance of success.
- If your pet is receptive to crate training, this could help them find their “safe spot” to go to when you leave. However, don’t force it—if your pet’s stress increases when they’re confined to a crate, consider other options.
- Behavior modification takes practice and repetition, but it can make a big difference in your pet’s life. This includes desensitization and counterconditioning to help them get used to your departures and spending time alone, and to not become fearful when you start getting ready to leave.
- Being calm when you leave and when you return home, and paying attention to your dog only when they’ve calmed down (sometimes humans need to modify their behavior, too).
- Keeping your pet active:
- At least 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day; preferably before you leave for work in the morning
- Interactive games like fetch and tug-of-war
- Daily walks and outings to new places
- Signing your pet up for daycare so they can play and socialize with other dogs
- Giving your pet food puzzles and edible and inedible chew toys to keep them busy
- Hiding treats or pieces of food around the house
- Reward-based training to increase your pet’s mental activity
- Medication/supplements prescribed by your veterinarian
What NOT To Do
Never scold, punish, or shame your dog for their behaviors! In addition to damaging the bond they have with you, this could make their behaviors even worse. They are responding to fear and stress, not being intentionally disobedient or spiteful. Please contact us at (480) 339-0406 if your pet is showing signs of separation anxiety—we want to help!