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Your dog doesn't want you going to work or on vacation. How to handle separation anxiety

Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Malamed said she's seeing a lot of pets with separation anxiety as well as other fears and phobias — including the fears of people, noises, walks and other animals.

These fears, she said, can be due to a lack of early socialization caused by the pandemic.

Ingrid Komisar said they also can result from a lack of training as well as genetic predisposition. Komisar — a certified trainer for Calm Canine Academy, a virtual dog-training service — said the coronavirus lockdowns halted in-person trainings for many dogs and their owners. It also stopped many pets from simply seeing and interacting with other humans and dogs.

Anxiety in pets can manifest itself in a number of ways. Physical changes can look like loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or house-soiling. Behavioral changes to be aware of may include hiding and avoidance, shaking, tail tucking, ears back, licking the lips and yawning, not taking treats readily and not following commands. In some cases pets will become aggressive to household members, unfamiliar people or other animals.

Don't wait to see if the problem will go away. Most behavior problems worsen if left unaddressed.

"The first thing that people should do when they notice any behavioral or physical signs or change, especially those that are sudden or uncharacteristic for their pet, is to consult with their vet to make sure that there are no underlying medical reasons for these behaviors," Malamed said.

 

How can a veterinarian help?

Karen Sueda, a veterinary specialist in the behavior department at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, said illness can affect your pet's behavior, so it's important to rule out physical causes first.

"For example, many diseases can cause house-soiling, and a dog that is in pain may pant, vocalize and appear anxious," Sueda said.

A vet visit allows the doctor to ask specific questions to make an accurate behavioral diagnosis and create a treatment plan if a physical cause has been ruled out, she said.

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