Help Your Pet Cope with Separation Anxiety
Most pets are happy when their owners return home. But, if your dog or cat is a little too excited about your return and greets you in a very energetic, panicked manner, he is most likely suffering from separation anxiety. You can use a few coping techniques to help your pet overcome their anxiety.
Signs of Anxiety
Dogs and cats display symptoms of anxiety in several ways. Your pet might react before you leave the home, after you leave or as you return. According to the Humane Society of the United States, common signs of anxiety include:
• Attempting to scratch through doors
• Barking, meowing, whining and crying when it seems as though you are about to leave the house and right after you leave
• Chewing on items while you are away, such as furniture and door frames
• Going to the bathroom in the house or outside of the litter box, even if house-trained
Typically, signs of separation anxiety occur when you aren’t home. Your pet will most likely not chew on objects or urinate in the home when you are there. They may follow you from room to room, afraid that you will leave again.
Coping Tip 1: Retrain Your Pet
If your pet begins to show signs of anxiety the minute you pick up your purse, put on your jacket or open the door to leave, retrain him/her to not associate those actions with your departure. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends doing something you normally would before leaving, such as picking up your keys. Instead of exiting, engage in an activity in the home, such as watching TV or putting away the dishes. Over time, your pet will stop associating those actions with you leaving.
Coping Tip 2: Make Leaving a Good Thing
Another way to help ease your dog or cat’s anxiety is to make your departure a pleasant experience for them. Before you exit, give your pet a treat that will keep them busy for an extended period of time. The treat will allow your pet to associate positive actions when their owner departs.
Coping Tip 3: Coming and Going Is No Big Deal
Help your pet cope with anxiety by not making a big deal out of leaving the home. Don’t pet your dog or cat anxiously before you head out or say goodbye to him, suggests dog trainer Cesar Milan. Instead, calmly gather your things and go. When you come back, wait a few minutes before you greet your pet.
If your dog is barking and jumping when you come home, it’s important not to pet them during that time, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. Pleasantly greeting your dog or cat when he/she is anxious awards the behavior you are trying to stop.
If your pet does show signs of anxiety, the ASPCA recommends bringing your pet to the veterinarian to rule out any other conditions. For example, if your pet suddenly starts urinating indoors, they may have diabetes or a urinary tract infection. Your pet’s vet will provide a firm diagnosis. If the anxiety is very troublesome, the vet might prescribe a mild anti-anxiety medication. When used with coping techniques, medicines such as clomipramine or fluoxetine can help your pet overcome anxiety.