Dog separation anxiety: symptoms and diagnosis
Do you suspect that your dog might have separation anxiety? Do they exhibit some separation anxiety symptoms, but you aren't sure? Don't rush into any conclusions.
Let's start by ruling out common dog behaviors that are frequently mistaken for dog separation anxiety symptoms.
If your dog misbehaves by chewing up your shoes, or perhaps destroying your pillows or your house plants, it is probably boredom and not separation anxiety.
If your housetrained dog urinates in your house, it is probably not separation anxiety. Housetrained dogs may urinate at home because of bladder infections, incontinence, hormonal problems, spending too long a time without a chance to go outside, or a variety of diseases (including hereditary diseases).
If your dog barks every time they see or hear something, it is not separation anxiety; it is more likely to be guarding behavior.
If your dog howls when alone at home, it might be simple boredom. Many dogs find vocalizing rewarding, and choose to do it when left with no other form of entertainment.
If you have moved to a new house, or are travelling, your dog may exhibit separation-type anxiety behavior because they aren't used to the new environment. Your dog may bark, or try to leave with you when you go out.This is not separation anxiety, but a reaction to the change.
If you have recently adopted or bought your dog, and they exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety, it may also be a reaction to the change of environment.
Although none of the above behaviors are directly linked to separation anxiety, they could be a part of it.
Separation anxiety is a behavioral problem that causes a dog to experience stress due to the absence of the owner or an important family ("pack") member.
Unlike many other conditions, dog separation anxiety is typically diagnosed by the owner based on the behavior of the dog. A dog behaviorist or a veterinarian may either confirm or rule it out based on observations of the dog's behavior.
Typical dog separation anxiety symptoms that are exhibited when the owner leaves the house:
Pacing back and forth or walking in circles,
Nervousness and shaking,
Urinating and/or defecating indoors (housetrained dogs),
Trying to escape.
Frequently ignored dog separation anxiety symptoms:
Low energy after staying up the whole day.
Upset stomach and diarrhea as a result of stress.
Constipation because of panting and excessive salivation.
Insomnia because the dog is worried that the owner may leave any moment.
Frequent infections as a result of overall stress and lack of rest.
Increase in reactivity even when the owner is present.
Tension and having difficulty relaxing and calming down.
High levels of stress may result in barking, howling, distractive behavior such as chewing, digging and scratching, urination and defecation (in housetrained dogs), attempts at escaping, self-injury due to excessive scratching, licking and chewing or as a result of distractive behavior, such as damaged gums, teeth, nails and paws.
If you recognize symptoms of dog separation anxiety behavior in your dog, consult with a dog behaviorist and your veterinarian.