Category: “Dog Health”

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation Anxiety in Dogs, a Common Problem


Texas Animal Guardians - Bringing People and Pets TogetherSupposedly,  absence makes the heart grow fonder. However, the absence of an owner sends some dogs into wailing and barking, frequent house soiling, and self-destructive behaviors. These are all signs that a dog is suffering from separation anxiety.

The canines most likely to fall victim are second-hand dogs. Whether from a shelter, rescue group, or greyhound-track adoption program, dogs re-homed in adolescence or older are at greater risk of suffering separation anxiety than puppies. This is probably because it is more difficult for these dogs to accept changes in their routine and environment. They cling to their new pack leader and panic when that leader leaves home to go about his or her daily business. For similar reasons, unemployed companion animal owners or those who take lengthy at-home vacations or recuperations may find that their dog becomes disoriented when they return to work. These distressed pets need help.

Texas Animal Guardians - Bringing People and Pets TogetherSeparation anxiety is often a problem of over-bonding. It is not healthy for a dog to follow his caretakers’ every step, to be constantly in the same room, sharing the same piece of furniture, being in close contact all the time. Promote independence by teaching the dog to down and stay on his own bed while you go out of sight. Start with a few seconds, then build up to a length of time the dog can tolerate. Put up a gate and eventually close a door between the two of you. Get family members involved in dispensing the “good stuff” to the dog.

Texas Animal Guardians - Bringing People and Pets Together Walks, play sessions, and feedings should not be provided by only one person, for that person’s absence means the end of all that is good in the world to the dog. Panic can ensue. If you live alone, perhaps a neighbor or relative will share the duties, or hire a pet-care professional to assist you.

The worst of a dog’s hysteria is often during the first hour after departure. Diffuse the emotion of your leave-taking by heartily exercising the dog right after you wake up. Then, after feeding him, scale back your attention to the point of ignoring him during the last 15 minutes before you leave. Turn off the lights and turn on the television, radio, or white-noise machine—whatever you play most when you are home. And with no more than a whispered “Be good,” leave the house.

Some dogs will read the signs of imminent departure and begin to work themselves into a frenzy. If putting on make-up, packing a lunch, or shuffling papers in your briefcase distresses the dog, desensitize him to these or other actions by doing them frequently and at other times (such as before mealtime) so they lose their direct connection to the dreaded departure. Presenting a toy stuffed with goodies can draw the focus of less seriously afflicted canines toward cleaning out the item and away from your leaving. Buster cubes, Kong toys, Goodie balls/ships work well as canine diversions. Unfortunately, the seriously afflicted dog will not give the toy a second look until his pack is together again.

Texas Animal Guardians - Bringing People and Pets Together Separation anxiety can be severe and all-consuming to some dogs. I have known dogs to jump through second-story plate-glass windows, eat through sheetrock walls into neighboring apartments, and bloody their paws and noses trying to dig through wooden doors or out of crates. These individuals need professional assessment by an applied animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist, for they may need pharmacological aid while they undergo desensitization exercises. Some people choose to manage the problem by dropping off their dogs at day care or adopting a second dog so they are never truly alone.

Luckily, if the earlier suggestions are followed, the majority of dogs will be howling “I will survive” in no time.

Written by Jacque Lynn Schultz, Director, ASPCA Special Projects

Thanks to Jacque Lynn Schultz, Director, ASPCA Special Projects ASPCA for giving Texas Animal Guardians permission to use this article. Permission provided from the ASPCA.

Dogs are Scared of Fireworks and Thunderstorms!

Dogs are Scared of Fireworks and Thunderstorms!

Thunderstorm dog Dogs (and cats) are scared of Fireworks and Thunderstorms — in fact some are so frightened of these noises they become almost paralyzed with fear…

Dogs are scared of fireworks and thunderstorms. It’s only natural. Loud noises trigger a powerful flight or fight response in both dogs and cats. A loud clap of thunder is likely to send them helter-skelter in search of a good hiding place. That is as it should be. After all, an animal in the wild will naturally seek refuge during stormy times or if danger is approaching.

Unfortunately, more dogs escape from their homes and yards during storms and fireworks than at any other time. On the day after the Fourth of July county animal shelters fill up with “stray” dogs. Cats, on the other hand, are far less prone to run away from their home base. Instead, they choose to burrow into a good hiding spot inside the house or yard area. Also, it appears that suburban and country dogs are more prone to this form of noise phobia than their city cousins.

Noise phobia is not breed specific so even sporting dogs can display anxiety during fireworks or thunderstorms. Dogs that are scared of fireworks (or thunderstorms) often have their own coping strategy such as seeking refuge in a windowless room or a bathroom or under a table. Others go into an all-out panic attack with displays of whining, howling, barking, shaking, trembling, urinating, or defecating. Some resort to chewing on furniture while others try to escape by jumping out a window or scratching their way through the door.

How can a pet parent help their dog overcome this type of anxiety? Most of the time dogs will ride out the storm and return to their normal selves again. However, do not overcompensate by feeling sorry for your dog or comforting him excessively. Comforting your dog will only give him temporary relief and it will further the anxiety the next time. Your body language and your confidence will do far more to stabilize your dog than words of sympathy.

Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to help keep your pooch comfortable. If your dog has a coping strategy such as hiding, by all means accommodate him by allowing him access to that area. If your dog does not have a preferred hiding place, then place him in a windowless room or a room with darkened blinds. This will alleviate the visual clues of lightning. (Keep in mind that small spaces, like a bathroom, are preferred over large ones.) If your dog is crate trained he can be placed in the crate and you can drape a blanket or other cover over it. In addition, background noise from a television or a radio can also help mask the noise of thunder

For more extreme cases, some animal behaviorists recommend reducing sensory overload created by static electricity and barometric pressure. This can be achieved by dressing your pup in a “thundershirt”, or a tightly bound T-shirt and massaging his ears. If that doesn’t work there are many products on the market designed to keep Fido calm. One behaviorist recommends buying an “appeasing pheromone” that plugs into a wall outlet, such as Comfort Zone. It emits the chemical simulation of a lactating dog and helps the dog feel safe and secure.

Afraid cat There are also homeopathic products for anxiety such as Rescue Remedy made by Bach Flower Essences. Also, Calms Forte works well. Both are safe for dogs and there is no danger of overdosing. For Calms Forte` use the dosage recommendations for children on the product label. Give these to the dog right before a thunderstorm.

The hormone Melatonin can also reduce anxiety levels in dogs and has health benefits for both dogs and humans. But, please check with your veterinarian before administering, particularly if your dog is on other types of medications. A dog’s dosage for Melatonin is .5 of 1 mg for small dogs, every 8 hours. For large dogs give 3 to 9 mg when needed.

Last but not least, is a method of sound desensitization used to treat noise phobias in dogs and cats. It is a rehabilitation treatment that exposes your pet to the noises that he fears, over and over again. At first the noise levels are low, gradually increasing in intensity. Two veterinary surgeons in England have developed a highly effective program and their Sounds Scary high definition CD has produced remarkable results. The reward is a calmer more confident dog and cat.

Note: The link included in this article can provide you with free downloads to help your pooch or kitty become desensitized. For other audio tracks visit this web site Scared No More.