Separation anxiety is a challenging pet condition, and a common pet diagnosis. The expert team at Pierson Pet Hospital can help you detect, treat, and prevent pet separation anxiety. Our favorite terrier, Buddy,* has been diagnosed with pet separation anxiety, and gives us his perspective on the problem and the solution.

Detecting pet separation anxiety

Buddy: “Please don’t leave me. That’s the way I feel when you go. A family member or the boarding kennel attendant would probably say I was depressed, but that’s just meI heard a cat say once that separation anxiety made them feel aggressive. A webcam or security camera at home would reveal me panting excessively as I focus on the door. As my anxiety increases, I begin to pace, whine, and paw at the door. Once I was so loud that the neighbors complained. I drool a lot, and sometimes have accidents in the house. When things get really bad, I destroy my bedding, and sometimes my kennel. It feels like a panic attack. My paws and mouth may be bleeding, and once I almost fractured a tooth, but I can’t stop.”  

Treating pet separation anxiety

Buddy: “To help my anxiety, we need to make a lot of behavioral and environmental changes, starting with some of your actions. Here are my suggestions, and some of the things my family did to help me.”

  • “This may seem counter-intuitive, but don’t make a big fuss when you arrive and leave. I get excited when you are excited, so keep these times low key. Save interacting with me for later when I have settled.”
  • “I know you are about to leave when you pick up your keys. When I hear them jangle, I feel my heart start pounding. If you pick them up at other times of the day, when you are not leaving, I will learn not to be triggered.”
  • “I miss you when you are gone, and I tend to live in the moment. Leave your scent to soothe me, with an unwashed clothing article, for example.”
  • “It’s hard to miss you when I am busy. Nothing keeps me distracted better than a Kong filled with frozen peanut buttermy favoritewhich will keep me busy for a while.”
  • “My friend Buster told me his family hired a pet sitter to visit him during the day while they were gone. The sitter was nice, and helped distract Buster from his anxiety. So my family tried this, but I felt worse. Monitor your pet’s response if you try this idea.”
  • “My family installed a pet door. Now I can go out to our fenced-in yard whenever I like. I have less time to worry about my absent family when I am busy outside.”
  • “I love my crate. My family trained me to think of it as my safe den. My bed is in there, and I never try to destroy that when my family is gone for short periods.”
  • “My family checked out the Fear Free website, which has great tips and tricks to change anxious pets’ lives. My family enriched my environment with calming colors and soothing music, which helps me relax when they’re gone.”
  • “Sometimes I have accidents when I’m anxious. My family always cleans them up with an enzymatic odor eliminator, which removes the scent instead of covering it upthat apparently helps ensure I do not use that spot again.”
  • “Remember, punishing me for my anxiety doesn’t workinstead, I get more nervous.”

Medicating pet separation anxiety

Pet separation anxiety medications come in three main categories, which Buddy has learned all about: 

  • “Prescription medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, work with my brain chemistry to help me stay calm.”
  • “Nutritional supplements, such as probiotics, L-tryptophan, and L-theanine, are natural remedies that are available as prescriptions or over-the-counter.”
  • “Pheromones work with my nervous and hormone system, and give me a sense of wellbeingthey come as sprays, wipes, collars, or diffusers.”

Preventing pet separation anxiety

Again, Buddy imparts the wisdom of his experience with these recommendations:

  • “If we ever get a new pet, I will encourage my owners from day one to not show anxiety when they leave, but to be calm and positive when arriving and departing, to convey the idea that separation is an ordinary part of everyday life.”
  • “You should try easing into separations with planned gradual departures, but be watchful for whether this makes your pet worse.”
  • “Nip separation anxiety in the bud, by noticing accidents or excessive drool in the environment.”
  • “Be on the lookout for other behavior issues, since pets with separation anxiety often have other problems, such as noise aversion (e.g., a fear of storms).”

Learn from Buddy’s experience how to detect pet separation anxiety. The caring veterinary professionals at Pierson Pet Hospital are here to help. We want your pet to be happy and well-adjusted, so they no longer say, “Please don’t leave me.” Give us a call to discuss any concerns you have about your pet.

*Buddy is not a real patient, but we see many pets with similar anxiety issues at Pierson Pet Hospital.