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Veterinary Viewpoints: Separation anxiety in dogs

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Media Contact: Kaylie Wehr | OSU College of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 |

Did you know that one-third of the cases we see in a behavior practice are related to separation anxiety (SA)? Yes, dogs can suffer from this emotional disorder, which is the inability of the dog to be left alone at home. Dogs with SA present with several complaints, which include barking when the owner is not present, excessive salivation, urination and/or defecation in inappropriate places of the house, refusing to eat, chewing on furniture or objects, breaking through windows and exit areas, and even self-mutilation.

This is very difficult to manage because every time the owner leaves the house and the dog has a panic attack, eventually the owner returns and the SA behavior happens to be “rewarded” by the owner’s return, which causes the behavior to persist. Usually when owners come back to a messy home, they end up yelling at the dog, which in turn, makes the severity of the disorder worsen.

This seems to cause an endless cycle, however, with the appropriate help from an experienced veterinarian, these canine patients can be treated and fairly well managed. There is no need to euthanize a dog with SA before a complete behavioral assessment has been done and treatment attempted. Majority of cases need to be managed for life, but it is doable and worth pursuing so the dog can be happy, and the owners do not have to worry every time they leave the house.

Treatment for SA in dogs involves behavior modification exercises done by the owner at home to teach the dog to be more independent, medications, supplements, nutrition, and environmental management. 

If your dog or any dog you know suffers from SA disorder, contact the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for more information or to schedule an appointment with our Behavior Service.

About the author: Dr. Leticia Fanucchi is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She specializes in animal behavior and is the head of the behavior service at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Teaching Hospital. Her research interests are applied behavior and animal wellbeing.

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year. Call 405-744-7000 for an appointment or more information.

OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 33 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States and the only veterinary college in Oklahoma. The college’s Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. The hospital offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit or call 405-744-7000.

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