One of the hardest parts of being a pet parent is leaving your pet alone while you go on vacation, or even to work. This experience is even harder if your pet suffers from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is nothing to joke about, untreated it can be extremely harmful for your pet’s mental and physical well-being.

Most cases of separation anxiety are mild. Your pet may just experience pancing: excessive licking and panting. Severe cases can result in your pet becoming destructive: urinating and defecating inside, and/or severe barking and whining at all hours. These symptoms can happen while you’re gone, and in some cases may start in anticipation of your leaving. As a condition it can develop at any stage of your pet’s life, though it is most often when they are younger.

Before you can adequately treat separation anxiety, you must first determine whether your pet is experiencing anxiety or is just bored. The key clinical difference between boredom and anxiety is that anxiety is rooted in fear while boredom is not. Anxiety requires treatment, boredom requires engagement. The primary treatment for anxiety is step-by-step training. This training should be conducted by a professional trainer, and should be rooted in positive reinforcement, as opposed to punishing negative behavior. It’s important to start training as early as possible.

Sometimes training alone isn’t enough. A secondary treatment option when training isn’t enough is medication. Medication without training will not be effective and must be included in a complete plan to battle separation anxiety. Talk to your veterinarian to get recommendations on what medications are best for your pet.

Separation anxiety is a serious problem for you and your pet. It’s important to be proactive in treating the condition as soon as the behavior is present. With treatment your pet and you can have a healthy relationship when it comes to spending time apart!