In last month’s article we dis – cussed how separation anxiety is presented in canines and felines. As promised in the forementioned article, in this month’s segment we will be discussing a general treatment plan that can be imple – mented if you feel that your furry companion may be experiencing separation anxiety.

We highly recommend that you consult with your local veterinarian for a more specialized plan towards your specific situation; however, here are some general guide – lines to help make this experience more comfortable for you and your pet.

The most common method of treat – ment is known as Counter-condition – ing. This process enables a dog expe – riencing fear, anxiety or aggression to become more relaxed, calm and happy. This is done by allowing your pet to as – sociate good things that he or she loves with the triggering event that causes them discomfort. Eventually as this method is implemented, your pet begins to feel more at ease with being left alone due to the association of a good thing happening when this event that was previously seen as stressful, occurs. This is done by finding a good association, such as a certain favoured toy or food. Every time you leave your house, make sure that your pet is offered that favour – ite toy or given food at that time. This will allow your dog or cat to feel com – fortable with the idea of your leaving, believing that in doing so they will re – ceive a high valued treat in return. Some owners may prefer to give a treat-based toy, distracting their pet for a long pe – riod of time. An example of such would be a treat stuffed KONG toy. Other com – mon, highly favoured treats are cheese, peanut butter, cream cheese, canned dog/cat food or kibble. However, it is im – portant that once you come back home, this favourite treat should be removed right away. This way you are sending the clear message to your pet that this treat is only available when you are not in the house. It is important to note here that if you witness that your dog is refusing to eat while you are not at home, then this may be a sign of a more developed stage of separation anxiety. In this case, a more specific plan for your pet may be warranted by your local veterinarian.

We highly recommend that our clients stay well informed on the different types of anxieties that our pets can face. Being educated on such matters is a very detrimental step towards being able to even start a treatment plan towards helping them feel more at ease. Without having the accurate knowledge of what is required when starting a treatment plan, it is then very hard for the owner to follow through successfully and accu – rately follow the required steps. Certain anti-anxiety medications are also avail – able in veterinary medicine; however, our primary priority is to assist in help – ing to solve the root problem at hand, before resorting to medications. Work – ing together with your veterinarian and your pet is the key to finding success in this treatment journey!

 Dr. Sifti Bhullar