Separation anxiety is one of the most painful parts of dog ownership for both the pet and the owner. The mournful yowls tug at your heart (and annoy your neighbors) while the destructive behavior can wreak havoc on your home. We asked four vets about the favorite tip for solving separation anxiety and came up with a range of new ways to tackle the problem, from the homeopathic to behavioral.
Adaptil, or 'dog appeasing pheromone'. This is a natural pheromone that's normally produced by mothers when they suckle their puppies. It makes dogs feel nice and calm, and therefore a great way of reducing their anxiety levels. It comes in spray or collar form.
Dr.Katherine van Ekert, VetPronto.com
Before the separation, make sure to fully exercise your dog. Just like in humans, endorphins and dopamine levels are greatly increased with exercise. These increases will greatly improve your dog’s ability to cope with your departure. If you don’t have time, hire a local dog walking company to come and take your dog for a long power walk or to a local dog park for some off-leash playtime.
There are many signs of separation anxiety in dogs. From being vocal (howling and barking before and after the owner leaves) to being destructive or even inappropriate elimination. These signs can be caused by medical problems as well, so it is important to see your veterinarian to rule out medical concerns. Once you have determined it is not a medical issue, then you can start working on the real problem.
Patrick Lewsen, Owner Everythingandthedog.com
There are levels of separation anxiety that range from mild to severe. In mild cases, you can use a behavior modifying technique like redirection or toys, like the KONG toy. The KONG toy works well in mild cases. Filling the KONG with varieties of your pup’s favorite treats will help keep him occupied while you are away. They have to work on the puzzle to get the treat out. These treats can be pet-safe peanut butter, cream cheese (low fat) bananas, cottage cheese or a canned dog food. Remember, this is only while you are away – the dog should not be allowed to keep the toy while you are home. Freezing the KONG with the treat inside will extend the time it will take the dog to get the prize out of the KONG. Again, this only works in mild cases of separation anxiety. For more severe cases, you may have to accompany the behavior modification with medications prescribed by your veterinarian.
Although some fur babies do need medication for separation anxiety, we always encourage our pet parents to try a natural approach first since medications can have their own side effects. In some cases, harsh drugs can make aggression or separation anxiety worse, or a dog may become dependent on medications. Using natural herbal supplements that are gentle on the body and nervous system is a good alternative for pets suffering from separation anxiety. In addition to acting on the nervous system to reduce excitability, anxiety, aggression, or destructive behaviors, natural formulas like NHV Lesstress and NHV Matricalm also help boost the immune system.
Patra De Silva, President of NHV Natural Pet Products
Do you have your own secret tip or trick to nipping separation anxiety in the bud? Tell us in the comments what's worked for you and your dog.
Pet cams are one way to help separation anxiety. Petcube Play's two-way audio allows you to talk to your pet while the 1080p camera with night vision lets you keep an eye from afar. Find out how a pet cam can help your dog.