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|How Do I Treat My Pet’s Stress?|
Depending on the cause of your pet’s stress, your pet may benefit from working with an animal behaviorist – especially in severe cases. If behavior modification through counter conditioning or desensitization is not fully successful, your pet may need medication to help ease anxiety and make it easier to deal with new things, loud noises (e.g., thunderstorms), separation anxiety, or compulsive behaviors like excessive licking.
Treating Anxiety in Dogs and Cats
One of the most common complaints from pet owners is that their pets are destructive or disruptive when they are left alone. Dogs may bark, howl, chew, dig, defecate or urinate. Although these behaviors are often a sign that dogs need to be housebroken or crate trained, they can also indicate that a dog is suffering from stress and anxiety.
Cats can also suffer from anxiety; they may hide, appear withdrawn, or excessively lick or bite their fur. Anxiety is the anticipation of future dangers from unknown or imagined events. Anxiety is most frequently associated with urine/feces elimination, destruction and excessive vocalization in the form of barking or crying.
Understanding the causes for anxiety in pets is essential to relieving this stress and helping pets live a happy and calm life.
Separation anxiety is a leading cause for anxiety and stress in dogs. Separation anxiety typically occurs right after the primary guardian leaves. While there is no clear evidence as to exactly why separation anxiety may develop, a sudden change in guardians or family membership, a change in schedule, or a change in residence are all common triggers for separation anxiety.
For dogs with a mild case of separation anxiety, counter conditioning may help reduce or resolve these problems. Counter conditioning is a process that changes an animal’s fearful, aggressive or anxious reaction to a pleasant and relaxed one. This is achieved by associating the presence or sight of a fearful situation with a liked person or object.
For separation anxiety, one effective option for counter conditioning is to develop an association between being alone and something your pet loves, such as a favorite treat. Be sure to only allow your pet to interact with this treat when he or she is alone. Keep in mind, however, that counter conditioning is typically most successful with mild cases of anxiety; in more severe cases, pets may refuse to eat if a guardian is not home.
Moderate to severe cases of anxiety require a more complex approach to stress relief, according to veterinarians. In addition to counter conditioning, desensitization is also helpful.
Consult with your veterinarian to learn more about the best ways to carry out counter conditioning and desensitization training, and also discuss the possibility of using psychotropic drugs. In some cases, your pet may benefit from working with a board -certified veterinary behaviorist.
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
ASPCA, “Separation Anxiety.” 2014
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Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.
The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.