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Does Your Dog Have Separation Anxiety?

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Is your dog suffering from separation anxiety? Does it freak out when you leave the house, or sometimes even when you simply leave the room? If so, he's likely suffering from separation anxiety. It's estimated that 10 to 15 percent of all dogs experience some level of this emotional disorder.

Separation anxiety is linked to a dog's natural instinct to be part of a pack; that's why we don't see cats suffering from this problem. The disorder manifests itself in a variety of ways: destructive behavior, excessive barking, house soiling, attempts to escape, loss of appetite, inactivity, sadness or depression.

Not just bad behavior

The difference between this enhanced state of panic and plain old bad behavior is that pets suffering from separation anxiety tend to act out only when they can't be with their owners. Take Mariellen, who found that every time she left her black lab, Elsa, home alone, Elsa would take all the neatly folded clean laundry off the counter and strew it throughout the house.

Some cases of separation anxiety in dogs are more severe than others. While some dogs panic only when their owner leaves home, in extreme cases a dog might not even be able to be apart from its owner at all. This is precisely what WebVet co-founder Hope Schultz experienced as she drove across the country with her two Old English sheepdogs, Maddie and Winston. "I quickly discovered that Maddie couldn't even be in the back seat of the car without panicking,'' Schultz said. "For 3,000 miles, she was relentless about literally trying to sit in my lap as I drove. And this is no lap dog we're talking about, but rather an 85-pound ball of fur.''

Why do some dogs suffer and not others?

Why does your dog suffer from separation anxiety while your friend's dog is fine?

There are a number of reasons. Some dogs simply lack confidence and may not be emotionally well adjusted, therefore can't cope with being on their own. For others, it may be because they were left alone for too long when they were puppies or suffered from abuse or neglect. Some dogs are shuffled from home to home until they end up in an animal shelter and fear being abandoned yet again.

The first step to solving the problem is to understand that your dog is acting out only because he loves you and is afraid of losing you. So with time, patience and good advice from a veterinary behaviorist, you can show your pet you love him as much as he loves you.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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