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It is now known that dogs and cats can suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD), which is often the result of inappropriate relationships and behaviour between humans and animals. It is estimated that 30% of dogs suffer from some degree of ADS, making it the most common disorder in dogs. On the other hand, this disorder is much rarer in cats. SAD is a contemporary phenomenon and is found only rarely in nature where the rules of exchange, attachment and learning are at the root of relations between individuals of a same pack or clan.

An animal with SAD demonstrates different behavioural problems as soon as it is left alone in the home or when its routine is changed. The elimination of SAD is not impossible. It is done gradually, usually in conjunction with professional follow-up and often with medication. For any pet owner with ADS, it is important to modify certain behaviours that may create a negative reinforcement, thus increasing the animal’s anxiety.


Cat's SAD

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Cats may experience anxiety as adults when they are separated too early from their mothers, at early weaning, or when purchased at a pet shop. Follows signs of SAD in the absence of his master such as:

  • Defecation and urination outside the litter box
  • Excessive mewing
  • Constant search for the presence of the master
  • Refusal to eat
  • Stay hidden all day

Dog's SAD

The dog may suffer SAD due to a change of master or a drastic change in the schedule and / or routine of the latter. Shelter dogs may also feel anxious because they are constantly afraid of being abandoned. The behavioural disorders observed are;

  • Vocalization
  • Great agitation
  • Take a walk without stopping
  • Destruction of objects by scratches and compulsive bites of objects
  • Excessive salivation
  • Defecation and urination in the house


How to proceed

First thing to do, consult a veterinarian and an animal behaviour specialist! The veterinarian may prescribe, if necessary, your animal homeopathic medicines, natural or pharmaceutical that will relax. The animal behaviour specialist will give you all the tips to eliminate stressful situations as well as those aimed at improving your response to your pet’s reaction. It is important to be persistent, regardless of the treatment chosen. The use of an anti-stress harness, such as the Thundershirt, is also an interesting tool.


Here are some small things you can do:

  • Change the routines of each departure: Preparations for departure and how you behave before departure can trigger anxiety. Accustom your pet to your absences by practising repetitive entries and exits from the house, first a few seconds, then minutes, then half-hours, etc. Thus, we trivialize the source of stress, gradually.
  • Teach your pet relaxation: At all times, use the threat rewards to communicate and reinforce good behaviour every time your pet succeeds.
  • Be truly present when you are there: an animal that is bored when its master is there is likely to find the time even longer in his absence. Before leaving for the day, spend quality time with him playing with him to make him expend energy, physically and mentally.
  • Establish a healthier relationship between him and you: your pet must be able to live without you for a few hours. When you are at home, ignore his excessive demands for attention. Leave the television or the radio and the light on during your absence. In addition, using a timer, set up a signal that will be triggered 15–20 minutes before your return and will warn your pet of your return. For animals that only support a few hours’ absence, but no more, one can ask a person to visit the animal from time to time during the day.
  • Fight against boredom and offer a stimulating environment: if you are the only source of pleasure for your pet, it is natural that he does not like you to be absent. Leave stimulating toys available for your pet, as well as an Aïkiou-type smart bowl for his food ration so that he has a puzzle to decipher for food in your absence.

  • Do not reassure your anxious animal: Keep a cool head by not caressing your anxious animal or providing reassuring words. It is important to ignore it so as not to encourage its negative behaviour. By reassuring an anxious animal, he is told that he is right to dramatize what he lives.
  • Use a Cage: It’s not impossible to leave your dog in a cage or a small safe room, with blankets, toys, water, and a cookie for part of the day. However, you should never use a cage to punish an animal or if it causes panic at home.

It is imperative never to punish an animal suffering from separation anxiety! This only accentuates his anxiety and unwanted behaviour. In the same way, we should not reward overexcited dogs by giving them attention right after they get home. It is best to let the animal calm down before rewarding it to teach it to be calm if it wants to receive attention.

© Martine Lavallée B.A.A. and Animal Health Technician

References :
Clinique vétérinaire de Beaumont 
Clinique vétérinaire Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Oven-Baked Tradition

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