DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
A behavioral disorder known as Separation Anxiety has been getting a lot of attention in veterinary literature the last 10 years. Chances are pretty good that all of our readers have either had a pet be diagnosed with this disorder or have known someone with such a pet. This begins a 3-part series on this interesting but often frustrating disorder.
One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape. Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew. Instead, they are indications that the dog has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.
Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated when their guardians prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their guardians’ departure or when their guardians aren’t present. Some try to prevent their guardians from leaving. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone—often within minutes. When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as though it’s been years since he’s seen his mom or dad!
When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate separation anxiety
Urinating and Defecating
Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their guardians. If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian, his house soiling probably isn’t caused by separation anxiety.
Barking and Howling
A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone.
Chewing, Digging and Destruction
Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their guardians. These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws and damaged nails. If a dog’s chewing, digging and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they don’t usually occur in his guardian’s presence.
A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where he’s confined when he’s left alone or separated from his guardian. The dog might attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows, which could result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws and damaged nails. If the dog’s escape behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it doesn’t occur when his guardian is present.
Some dogs walk or trot along a specific path in a fixed pattern when left alone or separated from their guardians. Some pacing dogs move around in circular patterns, while others walk back and forth in straight lines. If a dog’s pacing behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it usually doesn’t occur when his guardian is present.
When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs defecate and then consume all or some of their excrement. If a dog eats excrement because of separation anxiety, he probably doesn’t perform that behavior in the presence of his guardian.
Why Do Some Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?
There is no conclusive evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, because far more dogs who have been adopted from shelters have this behavior problem than those kept by a single family since puppyhood, it is believed that loss of an important person or group of people in a dog’s life can lead to separation anxiety. Other less dramatic changes can also trigger the disorder. The following is a list of situations that have been associated with development of separation anxiety.
Change of Guardian or Family
Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family can trigger the development of separation anxiety.
Change in Schedule
An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s guardian works from home and spends all day with his dog but then gets a new job that requires him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because of that change.
Change in Residence
Moving to a new residence can trigger the development of separation anxiety.
Change in Household Membership
The sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger the development of separation anxiety.
Medical Problems to Rule Out First
Incontinence Caused by Medical Problems
Some dogs’ house soiling is caused by incontinence, a medical condition in which a dog “leaks” or voids his bladder. Dogs with incontinence problems often seem unaware that they’ve soiled. Sometimes they void urine while asleep. A number of medical issues—including a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter caused by old age, hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, Cushing’s disease, neurological problems and abnormalities of the genitalia—can cause urinary incontinence in dogs. Before attempting behavior modification for separation anxiety, please see your dog’s veterinarian to rule out medical issues.
There are a number of medications that can cause frequent urination and house soiling. If your dog takes any medications, please contact his veterinarian to find out whether or not they might contribute to his house-soiling problems.
Other Behavior Problems to Rule Out
Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, it’s important to rule out the following behavior problems:
Submissive or Excitement Urination
Some dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly.
Incomplete House Training
A dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained. His house training might have been inconsistent or it might have involved punishment that made him afraid to eliminate while his owner is watching or nearby.
Some dogs urinate in the house because they’re scent marking. A dog scent marks by urinating small amounts on vertical surfaces. Most male dogs and some female dogs who scent mark raise a leg to urinate.
Many young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are home as well as when they’re away.
Dogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because they’re bored and looking for something to do. These dogs usually don’t appear anxious.
Excessive Barking or Howling
Some dogs bark or howl in response to various triggers in their environments, like unfamiliar sights and sounds. They usually vocalize when their guardians are home as well as when they’re away.
Part 2 will appear next week.
How many of you have wondered if you're using the right boarding kennel for your dog or cat? Or, you've moved to another town and don't know anything about the available kennels. What do you do then?
Choosing a Boarding Kennel
Pros and cons of using a boarding kennel
Your pet depends on you to take good care of it—even when you have to be out of town. Friends and neighbors may not have the experience or time to properly look after your pet, particularly for longer trips. Leave pet care to the professionals, such as a pet sitter or boarding kennel.
A facility specializing in care and overnight boarding allows your pet to:
Ask a friend, neighbor, veterinarian, animal shelter, or dog trainer for a recommendation. You can also check the Yellow Pages under "Kennels & Pet Boarding." Once you have names, it's important to do a little background check.
First, find out whether your state requires boarding kennel inspections. If it does, make sure the kennel you are considering displays a license or certificate showing that the kennel meets mandated standards.
Also ask whether the prospective kennel belongs to The Pet Care Services Association, a trade association founded by kennel operators to promote professional standards of pet care. Besides requiring members to subscribe to a code of ethics, The Pet Care Services Association offers voluntary facility accreditation that indicates the facility has been inspected and meets its standards of professionalism, safety, and quality of care. Check with your Better Business Bureau to see whether any complaints have been lodged against a kennel you are considering.
After selecting a few kennels, confirm that they can accommodate your pet for specific dates and can address your pet's special needs (if any). If you're satisfied, schedule a visit.
What to look for
On your visit, ask to see all the places your pet may be taken. Pay particular attention to the following
Be sure your pet knows basic commands and is well socialized around other people and pets; if your pet has an aggression problem or is otherwise unruly, she may not be a good candidate for boarding. Before taking your animal to the kennel, make sure she is current on vaccinations.
It's also a good idea to accustom your pet to longer kennel stays by first boarding her during a short trip, such as a weekend excursion. This allows you to work out any problems before boarding your pet for an extended period.
Before you head for the kennel, double-check that you have your pet's medications and special food (if any), your veterinarian's phone number, and contact information for you and a local backup.
When you arrive with your pet at the boarding facility, remind the staff about any medical or behavior problems your pet has, such as a history of epilepsy or fear of thunder. After the check-in process, hand your pet to a staff member, say good-bye, and leave. Avoid long, emotional partings, which may upset your pet. Finally, have a good trip, knowing that your pet is in good hands and will be happy to see you when you return.
BREED OF THE WEEK
A couple of weeks ago, Helpful Buckeye ran an article about the "world's longest cat"...and the star of the article was a Maine Coon. Just what is a Maine Coon cat?
Appearance: Maine Coons generally are very large, long-haired cats with shaggy coats and pronounced manes. They are most notable for their size -- males can weigh between 13 and 18 pounds, and females between 9 and 12 -- and the massive amounts of long hair that sprouts from all over their bodies, except their faces. Their shaggy, water-repellent coat sprouts from every inch of their bodies, between toes, around the neck and, most impressively, all over their peacock-like tail. Their faces are long and expressive, and they have large, lynx-like ears.
History: Although many people believe that Maine coons came about in Maine naturally, most breeders today believe that they were created when oriental long-haired cats came to Maine in its early history and bred with the shorthairs that already were there. They were first written about for an 1861 cat show, so they presumably had existed for a few decades before that. Although popular in the late 1800s, they fell out of fashion by around the turn of the century with the arrival of the exotic cats of Europe and Asia. However, since the 1950s, they have been undergoing a resurgence, and today are one of the most popular breeds of cat in America.
Personality: Maine coons are extroverted but quiet cats. Maine coons are a good balance of kitten playfulness and cat calm. They remain playful for years, yet are never obsessed with attention or too clingy. Although trusting in nature, they can be wary around new people and animals. But like most cats, once they become used to someone, they are friendly.
PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK
1) Our friends at http://www.zootoo.com/ put a variety of cat toys to the test and here are some of their favorites for keeping even the hardest-to-please cat entertained and engaged: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/01/zootoo-review-more-interactive-cat-toys/
Check out the 4 different toys and see if your cat might like any of them.
2) The folks at Pawnation.com have come up with a nice description of 3 different kinds of dog leashes and what situation each of them suits best: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/10/28/dog-leash-product-reviews-3-problem-solvers/
1) This is more of a general interest than something that is specific for dogs or cats. However, Helpful Buckeye realizes that many people don't really understand what is meant by "organic food". Take a few minutes to listen to this podcast from the AVMA that will answer your questions about organic food: http://www.avmamedia.org/manage/mediaimg/s336-organic.mp3
2) Also from the AVMA comes this advice about disease precautions for hunters: http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=297&NAME=Disease_Precautions_for_Hunters
3) Where's the best place to get pet news, fun ideas and activities, heartwarming pet stories, behavior tips, advice, and more for free? (other than Questions On Dogs and Cats, of course!) Your inbox, of course! The HSUS is offering a free e-mail service that you might be interested in. Check it out at: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/facts/pet_of_the_week_subscriptions.html
4) To give you a little enjoyment at the end of this section, take a look at this film clip of cat agility training: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/11/02/feline-agility-competitions/
The Pittsburgh Steelers don't play until Monday Night Football. All else is irrelevant at this point!
Most of the aspens in the Flagstaff area have been in the height of their golden glow the last few weeks. Enjoy this selection:
~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~