Do you sometimes come home to find that your canine buddy has made a mess while you were out? Perhaps Fido chewed up the couch cushions, or got into the trash. Or maybe he soiled the rug. These things are often mistaken for simple bad doggy behavior, but they are in fact often a sign of canine separation anxiety. Read on as a Fort Collins, CO vet discusses separation anxiety in dogs.
Separation anxiety stems from the fact that your loving pet is hardwired to function as part of a pack. In the wild, dogs are always with their buddies, and are hardly ever left alone. Fido sees his human family as his pack mates, and may feel distressed, anxious, sad, and lonely when he is separated from them.
As noted above, many of the signs of separation anxiety are often confused for bad petiquette. When left by himself, Fido may pace, whine, howl, or bark to vocalize his distress. (This may also be his way of trying to let his pack know where he is.) Your canine friend may also chew things, dig, defecate inappropriately, or try to escape. Sometimes dogs with separation anxiety engage in pica, which is the term for eating things that aren’t food. Some of these behaviors can be quite dangerous: Fido could hurt himself trying to get out, or could swallow something hazardous.
Separation anxiety is treatable, although the exact course of action you’ll need to take will depend on how severe your pet’s anxiety is. We recommend consulting your vet or a professional behaviorist for specific advice. That said, there are some general do’s and don’ts for helping dogs cope with their anxiety. First and foremost, make sure your canine buddy is getting enough exercise, and offer him lots of fun toys to play with while you’re away. Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys are great, because they can keep Fido amused for hours. You also want to avoid long, emotional greetings or farewells: ignore your furry friend for a few minutes when you are coming or going. Also, never punish your pooch for misbehaving when left alone: you may only make him even more anxious.
Does Fido need vaccines, microchipping, or spay/neuter surgery? Call us! As your Fort Collins, CO animal clinic, we are here to help!