Virbac USA

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

By Becky Cross, LVT
Virbac Corporation

As summer comes to an end, routines change and family members head back to work and school, leaving many of our canine friends feeling scared, confused, and alone.

Enter separation anxiety.

It is unclear why some dogs develop separation anxieties and others don’t. While there is much debate about whether a dog should still be considered a “pack animal” after tens of thousands of years of domestication, we know for certain that they are social animals, and can form deep bonds with family members or individuals. 

If a dog has not developed the proper training to cope with being alone, separation from their bonds can be devastating. In veterinary practice, patients have been seen with signs ranging from urinating in the house to more severe cases where dogs have broken their own teeth on crate doors or jumped through plate glass windows. Needless to say, it is not a condition to be taken lightly.

In addition to the typical upswing in separation anxiety cases at the end of summer every year, the veterinary world has seen a significant increase in the number of puppies and dogs with separation anxiety in the past several years. With the pandemic came a drastic surge in pet adoptions/purchases. 

These pets were, of course, in almost constant contact with their owners for months or even years. In many cases, owners went back to work and sheer panic ensued. So what do we do about it now? Behavior problems of any kind are most often resolved or managed when a comprehensive approach is used, including: professional behavioral counseling with a behaviorist or veterinarian and the implementation of behavior modification techniques with or without the addition of medications.

  • A good source for finding a veterinary behaviorist is The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) at http://www.dacvb.org/.
  • Veterinarians often reach for additional help from medications such as CLOMICALM® (clomipramine hydrochloride). This product, in conjunction with behavior modification, may help alleviate inappropriate barking and urination/defecation, as well as destructive behavior. Better results are achieved when medications are given well in advance to a triggering event. It can sometimes take weeks or months to reach desired effects.
  • Behavior modification techniques are an integral part of training in new puppies and adult dogs:
    • Jingle the car keys, put your wallet in your pocket or purse on your shoulder, then give your dog a treat, and don’t go anywhere. Repeat this several times throughout the day, so those cues won’t always necessarily mean that you are leaving.
    • Offer “busy snacks” when leaving or crating. This provides the brain with something to do in the initial minutes of separation. Try bits of frozen vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans, etc.), low sodium chicken broth, peanut butter, or canned pumpkin frozen into ice cube trays in different combinations. There are also a variety of commercial toys and feeders that are for the intended purpose as well.
    • Provide plenty of exercise, both physically and mentally. Exercise is most effective when it is outside of the home, and with mixed routines.
    • Crate your dog for short periods of time throughout the day, and again, don’t go anywhere. Practice this both with you present in the room, and without you being in sight. The goal is for your dog to be comfortable in their own space.

Separation anxiety is one of the most common and complex behavioral problems reported by pet owners. It is always important for a pet owner to inform their veterinarian about behavioral concerns and formulate a plan of action.

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
CLOMICALM® (clomipramine hydrochloride) tablets: For use in dogs only. Keep out of reach of children. In children, accidental ingestion should be regarded as serious. Do not administer to dogs with hypersensitivity to clomipramine or other tricyclic antidepressants. CLOMICALM tablets should not be used in: 1) male breeding dogs; 2) combination or within 14 days before or after treatment with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor; 3) dogs with a history of seizures or concomitantly with drugs which lower the seizure threshold. CLOMICALM tablets are not recommended for other behavior problems such as aggression. Effectiveness and clinical safety for long-term use (i.e., for >12 weeks) has not been evaluated. To reduce the incidence of vomiting that may be experienced by some dogs, CLOMICALM tablets may be given with a small amount of food. For full prescribing information, contact Virbac at 1-800-338-3659 or visit us.virbac.com.