If your dog displays destructive behavior or acts out when you leave the house or are separated from each other, your pet could be suffering from separation anxiety. Here's how to help.
Separation anxiety in pets
Some dogs (and cats) literally worry themselves sick while you’re away – shredding sofas, scratching floors and inhaling throw pillows as a nervous attempt to hightail it out of the house.
Separation anxiety is a heartbreaking, and dangerous, condition that can not only destroy your furniture but also cause your pet injuries.
Signs of separation anxiety include:
- Increased howling or crying when you’re away
- Nervousness (especially when it’s time to head out the door)
- Inappropriate elimination (such as a dog going potty in the house)
- Destructive behavior when left alone
Cats don’t seem to suffer from separation anxiety the same way as dogs, but they can become depressed, vocal and may wander from room to room looking for their "lost" friend.
How to treat separation anxiety in pets
Separation anxiety can be managed in a lot of cases, but it is not an overnight fix, and you will need the support and advice of your veterinarian. Treatment generally consists of medications to diminish the anxiety, and behavior modification exercises to condition a dog to become more comfortable with being left alone.
There are also things you can do at home to help:
- Select special toys to keep brains engaged, or hide food-stuffed treats around the house.
- Leave a radio on so the house isn’t completely quiet, and consider doggy day care a few days a week if it fits your family budget.
- Socializing with other four-legged friends can perk up even the poutiest pooch!
- Practice gradual departures; this is an exercise to get your pet used to being alone for longer and longer amounts of time. Do everything exactly like you would if you were leaving for the day, including putting on your coat and shoes (and your kids’ coats, etc.), grabbing your keys and your purse, and head out the door. You don’t have to actually go anywhere; the exercise is meant to show your pet that you will always return.
- Some dogs benefit from the use of a “safe” word to cue them into the fact that, although you’re leaving now, you will return. Lengthen the amount of time you are gone each time as long as your pet is comfortable with the length of your absence. If your pet shows signs of anxiety, back up to the time period that he or she was comfortable with and try again.
- If your dog is crate trained, you may also consider that to help when you are not home for short periods of time. Most dogs prefer the confines of their crate, which makes them feel at ease at times of high stress.
Does pet insurance cover anxiety and behavioral issues?
Not all pet insurance policies cover behavioral issues, but Petplan covers consultations with a licensed veterinarian to diagnose and treat separation anxiety. While the policy does not cover behavioral training, it can cover medications or therapies your pet needs to help calm his nerves.
Each policy has an annual reimbursement limit for consults and medications relating to behavioral issues (amounts are part of, and not in addition to, your policy’s total annual limit).
Since many behavioral issues, including separation anxiety, can cause serious medical issues, Petplan policies also cover the accidents and injuries that can result from their anxiety, such as fractured teeth, foreign body ingestion and lacerations.
To save your pet, and your house, from the misery of separation anxiety, veterinary intervention is almost always the best course of action. Your vet may refer you to a veterinary behavioral specialist if your pet needs an extra paw up with behavior modification – and this can be covered by pet insurance too. As with any pet insurance, pre-existing behavioral issues are excluded from coverage.
Get covered with Petplan
An insurer who cares about your pets (nearly!) as much as you do.Start quote