Animal Care Clinic Behavioral Tips

Aug 17, 2010 5:39 PM by Bonnie Markoff

Ask the Expert: Separation Anxiety

Lindsay has just adopted Jasper, a crossbred dog who did not have a good life before coming to her home. Lindsay is worried he has separation anxiety and is curious about training methods.

Many dogs adopted as adults (and many raised from puppyhood) have behavior issues that can look like separation anxiety. True separation anxiety is both an over-diagnosed and under-diagnosed disease. Many dogs bark or turn to destructive behaviors when they are left home alone. Many dogs seem upset or a little anxious when we leave or show tremendous exuberance when we come home. These are normal behaviors and not separation anxiety. True separation anxiety probably involves a change in brain chemistry and is similar to many anxiety disorders in people.

So, Lindsay, the first step is a diagnosis. Behavior problems take time to diagnose and to treat. A very detailed history needs to be taken and a physical exam performed. If Jasper has only behavior problems, it is usually relatively easy to manage these. If he has true separation anxiety, resolution will be a more involved process. Some dogs with separation anxiety can be managed with a behavior modification program. Most will need a short course of medication that will help the behavior modification. On occasion, patients will need medications for a lifetime.

Animal Care Clinic's Dr. Jennifer Evans has a strong interest in behavior problems. She is a very compassionate veterinarian who will listen closely to your story and Jasper's body language to determine the best way to help you both. I would strongly suggest a behavior evaluation with Dr. Evans soon. If she determines that a good dog training program is all that Jasper needs, she will be able to refer to an excellent trainer. If medications are needed, we have access to very safe and effective medications made specifically for this purpose. We work very closely with our pet owners to be sure that the behavior modification you are using at home is effective and will be lasting.

Please feel free to call our office anytime to discuss behavior problems, anxiety disorders, preventive care programs and medical problems in your pets. We are here to help nurture that bond between you and your pets.

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