Back to school means new schedules for everyone, including our family pets. Dogs may feel the loss of extra playtime and companionship the most (especially newer additions who had so much attention during their initial training times) when they are left home as pet parents and children return to work and school on a more regular basis.
Have you every returned home to find that in your absence the dog has chewed the woodwork into tooth picks or the pillows from the bed into a pile of fabric and stuffing? Have the neighbors complained about barking and whining for hour after the car leaves the driveway? Do you come home to a smelly surprise package waiting for you to clean up on the kitchen floor?
The types of experiences may indicate that your pooch suffers from separation anxiety. Your veterinarian is the first person who should be called as we want to make sure there are no medical problems such as a bladder infection which can happen if there is not ample opportunity to go outside to eliminate (again related to that change in schedule), gastrointestinal disorders and/or neurological conditions. If your pet is physically healthy then a series of relaxation and behavioral modification lessons can help with the coping skills and stress of not having constant human companionship.
Treatment for separation anxiety does NOT involve punishment of any kind. We also do not want to encourage or compound the problem which can be difficult as the concerned pet parent want to console and reassure a visibly upset pet that everything is OK, but this actually validates the improper behavior.
The key to control can involve training, behavior modification, and sometime various medications useful in moderating the fear factor. Separation is one of the consequences of our close relationship with our dogs. Your veterinarian is an integral partner in helping you and your dog deal with this stressful condition. The end result is usually a happier pet and a less upset pet parent.
The NJVMA represents the state's 1400 licensed veterinarians and has provided some of the material used for this blog.
Drs. Breitstein and Tepper and Animal Health Care of Marlboro are members of the NJVMA and the American Animal Hospital. For more information pet parents can also visit the AAHA website at http://www.healthypet.com/.