My colleagues and I whole heartedly agree that it seems we are having the discussion about separation anxiety a lot more frequently that we used to. Owners are requesting more and more assistance with their dogs because of this condition.
It may go without saying but, it’s the dogs that are suffering from separation anxiety. The cats are just glad you are finally giving them some peace and quiet.
It also seems that we are seeing more patients daily that are not the easiest to handle and do not feel comfortable out in public around people that are not their owners. I do believe we can lay this squarely at the feet of Covid. Ever since the beginning of this pandemic, people have been staying home more. They have been working from home and simply electing to staycation rather than travel. This has also led to a record number of individuals acquiring pets. Pets that have stayed at home with their owners 24/7. Because their owners worked from home, they never acclimated to periods of time without them. They have become so accustomed to being by their side all the time that now, when owners are starting to travel or drive in to work and leave their pets at home, the pets are facing something they have never had to face before…solitude. Socialization to the outside world just never entered the picture. Dogs are pack animals and naturally they do not thrive in solitary confinement. As puppies we can acclimate them to a schedule of being ok with periods of alone time and separation from us and they realize that we will come back, and all will be well. As adults, this is a much more difficult hurdle to overcome.
Training and patience are the best medicine but sometimes pharmaceuticals are needed to aid the transition. My personal rule of thumb is that if the pet is hurting themselves or causing damage to your house or property, then it may warrant medication. Many of my clients feel that medication is the easy answer, but I have to caution them that meds can have side effects and sometimes unpredictable responses. Most all of your anti-anxiety medications have the potential to cause the opposite of what you are hoping will happen. Yes, that means more anxiety, hyperexcitability or even aggression. You do not know how any individual will respond to any medication. I instruct my clients to start these medications at a time that they will be at home for extended periods of time and can monitor their behavior and response. You do not want to be in the predicament of worst-case scenario when you are really counting on these meds to work appropriately. Aggressive behaviors are also possible, and clients need to be on the look out for this especially.
There are options for anti-anxiety medications but there are two primary choices that we usually recommend. They vary in their duration and onset of action. In choosing which medication is right for you and your pet depend greatly on how frequent and severe the problem is. If you are needing medication daily or just once a month for example. Does your pet need medication to go on a trip or to come into the vet’s office? Does your pet medication every time you leave the house to go to work? This can help us recommend one medication over the other.
Most of these medications are also used in human medicine. These also come with more strict regulations regarding dispensing and monitoring. It is crucial that you maintain close communication with the prescribing veterinarian and stay up to date on regular exams in order to continue to receive these medications for your pet. We will not be refilling these medications without an active Veterinary-Client-Patient relationship. This means minimum exam visits 1-2 times a year regardless of the excuse why you have not been able to bring the animal to see us, we cannot dispense without this active relationship. The DEA does not care what hardship you have undergone this month or how you did not realize that by waiting until the last minute you could not get an appointment tomorrow and now you are running out of medication. These regulations are no less serious because they are for a dog. I stress this point, because I have frequently encountered clients that are upset about the requirements surrounding refills of these types of medications. They find it difficult to understand how medication for a dog is regulated. Regardless for whom the medication is prescribed, the type of medication is what dictates the requirements for its dispensing. Some medications are relaxed in their requirements, and some are much more stringent. These medications usually fall into the category of more stringent. They have a higher rate of abuse by humans and therefore the DEA watches them more closely. Therefore, they watch those that prescribe them more closely. Simply put, as medical professionals and licensed veterinarians, we do not want to do anything that would put us on the naughty list with our state board or the feds.
If you feel that your pet is experiencing sufficient separation anxiety that you are unable to overcome with patience and training alone, let us know so that we can sit down with you and go over these concerns and your options for therapeutic intervention. We may be able to help you and your pet get through this difficult time.