In Dogs and How to Deal with It
Coping with Destructive and Obsessive/Compulsive Behaviors In Your Pet
If your pet is licking or chewing on itself, you can read an article specifically on that problem here
Just its paws ? here
Many of the suggestions and treatments given there can also help with your dog's problem.
Ron Hines DVM PhD..............Nothing seems to be helping ? Consider a home cooked diet...
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What is Separation Anxiety (SA) ?de
Perfect pets, like perfect people are hard to find. Separation anxiety (SA) is a pet’s exaggerated fear over separation from its owners. It is a modern, industrial age, disease. I see it most often in dogs, parrots mice and cats. Simply said, they are afraid of being left alone.
What are the Signs of Separation Anxiety ?
diagnose SA by noting its signs and symptoms in your pet. After all,
you know your pet better than any veterinarian can. Separation anxiety
is not the same as boredom, which can also result in chewing, pawing,
digging, and other bad behavior. SA begins as a panic soon as you leave,
boredom, after an hour or two
Signs of SA in pets are: fearfulness (worry, apprehensiveness), clinginess, hyperactivity, barking and yelping (screaming in birds), destroying objects, urinating inappropriately, defecating in the house, vomiting, diarrhea, salivation, depression or aggressiveness when they are about to be left alone or think they are about to be. Some over-eat; some under-eat. Some twitch their ears, pace, pant, hide or jump and bounce about. Parrots and cats over-groom, resulting in bald areas on their chests. Some pets can be left alone for no longer than a few minutes before they panic and exhibit these behaviors. Sometimes separation anxiety is caused by a change in schedule that requires the pet to be left alone for longer that normal. Unidentified changes in older pets may also cause sudden separation anxiety, which can be mistaken for senility. What your pet is thinking is that it is about to loose its main friend and that you will not be returning. It is preoccupation with this that sets off the cycle.
seen SA equally in male and female pets, unneutered and fixed. Among
dogs, dolichocephalic (long nosed) shepherd-like
dogs, bred for herding and guarding as well as spaniels and setters
more commonly have the condition. I have noticed that dogs with SA tend
to be lean or thin and have periodic digestive disturbances. Among cats:
Siamese seem over-represented; among birds, Cockatoos, African Grey
Parrots and Macaws. Age at onset in dogs is usually 5 months to two
years. In parrots it can occur at any age. I would guess that in its
severe form, it affects 4-8 % of the pet dog I have seen over the last
40 years and a similar percentage of Parrots. It is much less common
What are Some of the Non-Drug Therapies for Separation Anxiety ?
therapies should always be the first-line approach when possible. Some
times it is possible to improve them without medications and sometimes
Here are some practical steps you can take to minimize separation anxiety. All attempt to teach your dog that it does not have to be frightened and panicky when it is left alone and to lessen its dependency:
a) Teach your dogs as many commands as possible. Your pet should be able to “sit” “relax” and “stay” on command while you stroke and reassure him. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to join a group obedience class. Each member of your household should participate in a “take charge” way because it is impossible to have happy, well-adjusted family pet if family members are below it in the “peck order” (social order). The point of this training is teaching anxious dogs to relax and give it confidence. Do the exercises in various rooms of the house and in the yard. Give out praise effusively and chew treats liberally.
b) Find a room in your house that is not easily destroyed. Place the dog in it with some of his favorite toys and stay with him a while. Then leave and shut the door promptly without fanfare. When you return, a few minutes later, give him a pat and his favorite food treat. Over days, repeat this; but each time stay away a little longer. You may leave a radio or television playing but be careful about electrical cords. (The technical term for this is Graduated Exposure or desensitization)
c) Dogs know when you are thinking of leaving long before you do. Perhaps it is because you put on your shoes, pick up your purse or car keys or put on your dress clothes. If you can determine what the clues are that you give your dog, you can try to desensitize him to these clues by repeating them frequently but not leaving and by giving him a treat and praise when he behaves well. When you have made progress, make your departures quiet and quick. (The technical term for this is Contingency Management or unlearning)
d) Some feel that diet might play a part in SA. There is no harm in offering your pet a diet that one leading manufacturer offers as a “brain food” (Prescription Diet Canine b/d) or a hypoallergenic diet (CNM’s HA or Hill’s z/d).
e) In some pets, you can reduce dependency by spending less time with them for a training period of several weeks or months. That means less eye contact, less verbal praise and less comforting, less commands and less scolding. During these periods the dog should not be allowed to sleep in your bed or bedroom. While doing this, never “reward” unwanted behavior by making a scene, scolding or interacting with the pet. Always be mellow with your pet – mellow people tend to have mellow pets. The purpose of all this is to make the pet more self-reliant. (The technical term for this is Response Prevention)
are mixed thoughts about the benefit of having a companion pet for your
pet. Some say this may help the situation and others say it will make
the problem worse. I have not personally seen this approach work. It
will overcome boredom.
As I mentioned before, make do not make your departures a big production by hugging the pet and cooing over it because your are guilty about leaving. This only makes the problem worse. Try leaving through a back or side door. Departures should be quick and quiet. The Family should ignore the dog 20 minutes before you leave and 20 minutes after you get home.
Dogs need vigorous exercise once or twice a day. A good plan is to take them for a walk or jog an hour or so before you leave for work and then give them 20 minutes or so to calm down before you leave.
that drug therapy not be used until you have attempted some of the non-drug
therapies listed above. Preliminary research suggests that selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s)
may provide effective treatment of separation anxiety disorder and other
anxiety disorders in pets. Neither tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil
nor benzodiazepines such as Valium have been shown to be more effective
than placebos in children although some veterinarians do prescribe them.
discuss the general approach to psychopharmacology that I use –
some animal behavioralists would probably use non-drug therapy longer
than I agree to. This is because I am part pharmacist, somewhat impatient,
and because I have seen the success these drugs offer. I have had personal
pets, zoo animals and my own children on these medications before. The
SSRI’s appear effective in treating SA in pets; they are most
certainly effective in human children and adults. SSRI’s are all
antidepressant and antianxiety medications. SSRI’s all affect
the way our pets think, feel, and act. They affect nerves that are involved
in the regulation of mood, appetite, sexuality, sleep, aggression, obsessions,
and compulsions. They have remarkably few and mild side effects. Some
side effects are: dry mouth, sleepiness, dizziness, fatigue, tremors,
and constipation. They occur fairly commonly.
Are Some Of These Problems Rooted In My Pet's Genes ?
The Broad Institute has made great progress in mapping the complete gene catalog (genome) of dogs. They have also made great progress in understanding which genes favor compulsive and aggressive behavior in dogs. (ref1, ref2, ref3, ref4) That does not mean that love, patience, training and/or medication can not improve your pet's situation. It might also help you understanding that we pet owners, and our pet's earlier traumas might not be entirely responsible for our pet's current psychological issues. Many pet owners who write to me feel that guilt and frustration. There is really no reason for them to feel that way. Try not to.