Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a distress response that occurs when our pets are separated from the person or persons to whom they are most attached. It can result in destruction, vocalisation, repetitive behaviours such as pacing, anorexia, panting, hypersalivation, escape attempts or inappropriate toileting.
There are often underlying problems such as fear, anxiety or lack or appropriate stimulation or interactions.
They are more at risk of developing separation anxiety if they are rescue animals, have a single owner or have not had appropriate training or socialisation.
There also may be a genetic component for some animals.
It is estimated that over 10% of our companion animals have some separation anxiety.
Treatment involves behavioural modification aimed at desensitising the pet to the fear evoking stimulus - ie the owner leaving.
It will include independence training, changing the predictive value of departure cues, modifiying the departure and greeting routine, and departure counter-conditioning.
Counter-conditioning involves changing your pets emotional response to any situation.
Helping pets with separation anxiety will require the assistance of a competent trainer and a lot of time and patience. Meanwhile the pet should never be left alone.
Daily adequate exercise and a consistent routine will also help.
Many pets also required a short course (>6 months) of anti-anxiety medication to help them learn to be calm and relearn their responses to situations.
It is essential to have a physical checkup before embarking on any behaviour modification, as illness can also cause anxiety.
If you are experiencing any anxiety problems with your pet, please book an appointment to see one of our vets and we can help you to make some improvements to their quality of life.