Separation anxiety appears to be more common in dogs unaccustomed to long periods of owner absence, in young dogs and those dogs in a one-person household. The separation anxiety appears to be paralleled in humans, particularly those closely bonded to their canine companion.
Dogs are social animals which have a strong inherent desire to interact with their social group including humans to which they have bonded.
As a consequence, separation-related behavioral signs are common when dogs are separated from or denied access to their bonded family, induced by emotions such as anxiety, fear, distress, frustration, and panic.
Clinically affected dogs may present with destructiveness, vocalization, inappropriate elimination, attempts to escape, pacing, trembling, depression, and self-mutilation. In a veterinary clinical situation, separation anxiety can be compounded by existing diseases, which heighten fear states, as well as clinic noise and odor aversion.
In most acute patients, environmental enrichment, use of dog-appeasing pheromone and medical intervention with fluoxetine, acepromazine, diazepam or clomipramine may suffice, but re-establishing contact with family members, particularly in dogs hospitalized in veterinary clinics is essential to minimize this condition.
Prevention is difficult but is aimed at conditioning the canine patient to associate unusual environments with positive reinforcing experiences.
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