Archive for May, 2011
Many pet owners suffer severe anxiety and distress when they are separated from their animal companion. These pets play such a pivotal and vital role of our every day lives and routines, it is difficult for many of us to leave them behind, whether we are going to work or away on vacation or a business trip. We may do everything in our power to ensure that they are well cared for in our absence but, nonetheless, we worry about them and miss them. So many of us fail to consciously realize what a significant role these pets play in our lives and overall well being. We feed them, exercise and play them, go for walks, share holidays and vacations with them, and spend countless hours in their comforting presence.
Our pets, as part of our pack or members of our family have a deep love for and loyalty to us, their family. When we leave them, many, who are very attached to us, suffer from great stress, sadness, frustration and anxiety. In a previous article, I wrote about some of the many manifestations separation anxiety may assume in your pets. I would like to help you treat this condition. Recognizing some of the symptoms of your dog’s anxiety is an important step in helping resolve this issue. Is your dog whimpering, whining, barking excessively, following your every move as you prepare to leave? When you are away, does he chew, dig, defecate or urinate arbitrarily? Does he lick himself howl, attempt to escape, self-mutilate, panic? When you return, does he display frantic, overly excited, effusive greeting behaviors? Does he stay as close to you as possible for as long as possible? There are many ways to overcome your pet’s separation anxiety.
First and foremost, take this situation seriously. You pet is not “acting” or “acting out” on purpose. He is genuinely fearful and concerned about being apart from you. You are his caregiver, parent, best friend and companion. He is dependent upon you for all of his needs.
Some of the ways you can treat your dog’s separation anxiety are as follows:
Don’t make a dramatic exit when you are ready to depart. Make it calm, simple. and matter-of-fact.
Practice leaving for only a short while and returning. Leave for longer periods each time,
and greet your pet calmly and casually when you return.
Leave your dog in a safe and comfortable room with an article of clothing that has your scent.
Keep his special toys and blanket in this room. Provide him with a Kong or other toys containing treats like peanut butter or cheese in them. He can “work” on getting the treat from the toy.
Place him in a room with a window so that he can look out.
Leave the television or radio left on while you’re away.
When you are home, keep your pet in rooms other than the one you’re in for increasingly longer periods of time until he gets used to you being apart from one another. Make sure he has toys, and come in the room frequently to reassure him that you will always return to him.
Try to exercise or walk your dog before you leave home. A tired dog is generally a better behaved dog. Increase the amount of exercise he gets.
Get your dog accustomed to getting ready to leave cues, such as changing your clothes, getting out your keys, putting on your jacket. Repeat these actions without actually leaving home. Your pet will get the idea that you will be returning.
Consider taking your dog to doggie daycare or to a friend or neighbor’s house while you are away.
Consult your veterinarian about drug therapy. Such medications as the tricyclic antidepressants, buspirone and benxoodiazepines may help your dog get over his anxiety These meds should only be used in conjunction with desensitization/counter conditioning work – teaching the dog how to deal with being left alone.” Reconcile” is a chewable, flavored tablet (fluoxetine hydrochloride) that you give your dog once daily to treat separation anxiety in conjunction with a simple training plan.
Homeopathic remedies such as the Bach Flower Essence mix, Rescue Remedy” may also help calm an anxious dog.
The DAP method is another alternative to helping your dog. It is a “plug-in” product that releases a chemical that is supposed to be a dog comforting hormone.
Keep calm and be patient. Discuss your dog’s separation anxiety issues with a knowledgeable veterinarian. Having lived with many dogs that have had separation anxiety, I know that it can be treated and resolved satisfactorily. – for the benefit of you and your best friend!
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Dogs with separation anxiety experience anxiety, depression and distress upon being separated from their parent or care-giver. These dogs experience excessive worry or fear about being apart from their family members. Separation anxiety is an enormous problem for an estimated 10% of all puppies and older dogs. Since most dogs are pack animals and very social, they naturally desire to be with their family all of the time. They become very disturbed, agitated, frustrated and frightened when their “parents” are away from them.
Did you know that separation anxiety is the second most common reason dogs are euthanised and have been given up by their owners? Dogs experiencing separation anxiety may whine, whimper, bark incessantly or howl disturbingly. They may drool or salivate excessively. They may become destructive in all manner of ways such as pacing nervously, chewing furniture, ripping up carpeting and upholstery, scratching doors and windows, eating the baseboards, raiding the cupboards, and even going through plate glass windows. Eating through drywall, mutilating plants, eating wall paper, rummaging through garbage, chewing furniture in addition to urinating and defecating indiscriminately can all be manifestations or symptoms of a dog suffering from separation anxiety.
Most adult dogs (3-4 months and older) can be left alone for 8 hours or even longer if they have access to a yard for elimination. They may be bored and unhappy but do not become destructive or problematic. A dog with separation anxiety becomes agitated and anxious as soon as he realizes his family member will be leaving him. He may whimper and whine and physically “beg” you not to leave. His distress is obvious – he does everything in his power to dissuade you from leaving – hugging you, trying to leave with you, placing himself between you and the door. You finally manage to disengage yourself from him and get through the door, but you can still hear him whining, crying and scratching at the door as though he were a trapped animal.
There are many causes for separation anxiety in dogs. It can appear in those animals that have not been properly socialized. . It can also be a byproduct of or related to a traumatic experience such as a violent episode in which your animal has been injured; a natural disaster or frightening experience such as a fire, an earthquake, tornado or severe thunderstorm. Your pet may have been abandoned, neglected or abused, and is wary of being “given up”.
It is important to obedience train and socialize your dog. If your dog is still manifesting the symptoms of separation anxiety, it is important to consult with an animal behaviorist and/or veterinarian who can help you to determine if your animal does, indeed, have separation anxiety and to help you understand, train and perhaps, even medicate your dog in order to correct these behaviors and improve the quality of life for both you and your pet. There are many ways to effectively treat separation anxiety and ensure a successful outcome – one that is beneficial for you and your pet. I will discuss some possible healing modalities in my next article, “How To Help Your Pet Cope With Separation Anxiety.”
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One of the most important health decisions you can make for your pet is to spay or neuter your cat or dog. Spaying and neutering refer to the surgical procedures that sterilize your animal and ensure that your pet cannot reproduce. If we do not spay/neuter our pets, we potentially take homes away from those animals in greatest need. There is an overabundance of stray and homeless animals that will invariably be euthanised. By spaying//neutering your pet, you are helping the homeless animals that exist to find homes. Spaying involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female pet. The procedure involves minimal hospitalization and provides lifelong benefits. Neutering involves the removal of the testicles of your male pet – and will improve his health as well as his behavior.
What are some of the benefits of spaying a female cat or dog? You reduce or eliminate the heat cycles, so that males will not be attracted to her. She will have less of a desire to roam. You decrease the risk of mammary gland tumors. The likelihood of her having ovarian and/or uterine cancer is also decreased. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases. Again, you are reducing the number of unwanted cats, dogs, kittens and puppies.
Among the benefits of neutering males are: the lessening of their desire to roam or escape which, in turn, decreases the likelihood of their being injured in fights or car accidents. An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate. The risk of testicular cancer is eliminated. The incidence of prostate cancer is also decreased. Aggressive behavior is far less common, including biting. Neutering your pet helps him live a longer, healthier life and reduces the number of unwanted pets.
By spaying or neutering your pet, you are benefiting your community. Unwanted animals pose many problems and can be A great public nuisance – creating noise, soiling streets and property, frightening people, causing automobile accidents and fighting with and even killing or injuring other pets.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “The capture, impoundment and eventual destruction of unwanted animals costs taxpayers and private humanitarian agencies over a billion dollars each year. As a potential source of rabies and other less serious diseases, they can be a public hazard.”
Adopting a pet requires a lifetime of commitment to him and for his well-being. It is in your best interest as well as his to make him a happy, healthy member of your home and a good citizen in your community.
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