Dogs experience many of the same health issues that affect humans but we often do not relate the health conditions as such. If your dog is showing signs of distress during the day, this distress may be related to a common mental health complication that arises in children as well – a condition known as separation anxiety disorder.
Mental health conditions in dogs can be challenging to diagnose. But, in many dogs, when suffering from separation anxiety disorder, the symptoms can be quite simple to diagnose. If your dog is demonstrating over-excitability during the day, especially when you are about to leave home, this is definitely a sign that separation anxiety disorder has developed.
Separation anxiety disorder in canines is based upon the same fears that children have – a fear that their loved one will not return home and a fear of being deserted. For dogs who are adopted out of a shelter, or who are victims of abuse, there is a greater risk for developing separation anxiety disorder when in their new home. For dog owners, this degree of anxiety feels very similar to the anxiety adults experience when caffeine withdrawal anxiety progresses.
If you feel your dog may have this mental health disorder, it is important to consult your veterinarian about the treatment options. In many cases, the use of kennels is recommended when you are not at home as this will provide a safe haven for your dog while you are gone. In addition, your veterinarian may want to prescribe anti-anxiety medications for your dog while you work to get the behavior under control.
While dogs can not engage in talk therapy, they can, to some degree, engage in cognitive behavioral therapy. It is recommended that you find a dog trainer who can assist you in the therapy methods that work in canines. In many cases, exposure therapy will help as this will involve your departure from your dog in short periods and then slowly lengthening your time away. Ultimately, this will resolve your dog’s separation anxiety symptoms.
Mental health disorders in dogs are quite common and can be treated effectively by taking a collaborative approach. If your dog has sigs of separation anxiety, ask your vet about options for treating the symptoms and remember, with care, the symptoms will be managed and the condition can be effectively resolved in your family pet.
Sources: What’s Wrong with My Dog?, by Jake Tedaldi