If you think the notion of a dog having anxiety sounds silly, you should know that it’s a very real condition. In fact, veterinarians estimate that around 15% of all dogs show signs of anxiety – these may be the things your dog does when you think he’s just being a ‘bad dog.’ Unfortunately, anxiety can become worse and worse if left untreated and your dog could be very upset and sick. Humans are able to let each other know when something is wrong – whether we feel sad, alone or depressed. Dogs are not able to tell us in words, so they tell us in actions.
Have you ever noticed your dog barking excessively when you leave the room or when you’ve gone outside? How about coming home to a wrecked house, chewed shoes, and surprises waiting for you on the carpet? These may be your dog’s way of showing you that he is upset and experiencing separation anxiety. In fact, he may be so anxious that he stays an inch behind you no matter where you go, watches every move you make and wants to keep you in his sight.
You may also notice that he grooms himself constantly – including licking his paws, scratching or gnawing at himself. You may also notice that he drools a lot at times – while some owners think this comes along with the fur and paws, it could be hypersalivation, another sign of anxiety in dogs. Just a few other signs he could display to show you that he’s feeling anxious include having an upset stomach, not wanting to play or eat his food, trying to get out of the house or demanding your attention when you return home.
These behaviors occur because it’s the dog’s instinctual response to being upset or afraid. If your dog was a rescue from a shelter, a pet store or if he showed up as a stray, you may notice this behavior even more. It is more common in pets that have been abandoned or stuck in cages at stores and shelters. It is also more common in puppies than in older dogs, but older dogs can experience it as well.
Some veterinarians prescribe a form of an antidepressant called clomipramine hydrochloride. This is similar to an antidepressant a human would take which increases serotonin – a chemical which increases happiness and a general feeling of well-being. Clomipramine hydrochloride does not make your dog sleepy, although it can make him feel like laying around a bit more than you may be used to.
Behavior modification is another great way that owners help their dogs feel less anxious and afraid. This method is used to make your dog feel more comfortable and get out of learned habits such as excessive grooming or barking. Punishment is never a good idea for a dog that may have separation anxiety. This will only make the situation worse and your dog will surely not understand why he’s being punished because he’s sick. The behaviors will probably increase and your dog will probably be even more anxious if you show aggression or punish him for separation anxiety.