Anxiety is part of who your pet is, not a training error. Anxiety can be triggered by separation, situational changes in the household or routine or by car rides or noise. It tends to worsen with age and with a change in environment or family status (new house, new family members or changing owners). We use several "layers" of treatment.
1. Behavior Modification- usually requires a behavior specialist- either a dog trainer or veterinarian with specific training for these behaviors. We recommend Dr. Terry Curtis at UF (a doggy "psychiatrist"). There are also behavior modification protocols you can use at home but typically the help of a specialist will be needed.
2. Pheromone treatment- in the form of a collar, plug-in or spray this mimics "mommy" smell and soothes the dog. (Fel-away or Adaptil)
3. Thunder shirts- These garments have been shown to provide comfort especially during triggered events.
4. Fluoxetine (Prozac)- must be given daily, takes 4-6 weeks to work and is an SSRI that reduces stress. Occasionally this drug may suppress the appetite and it cannot be stopped suddenly as it may cause seizures leading to death. Many times this can be used seasonally (for thunderstorms) or until training has alleviated symptoms.
5. Benzodiazepines- Valium/Xanax can be used for short term relief as they only last a few hours- these are true "anxiolytics". In a small percentage of animals, a paradoxical hyperexcitability can occur (the opposite of calming) so we will usually do a trial dose first during a non-triggered time.
6. Trazodone- SARI class of drug- can be used daily or situationally and also reduces anxiety. Often given to a dog that is scared coming into the clinic or anxious in the kennel.
7. Acepromazine is a tranquilizer used in dogs. It causes marked sedation but does NOT alleviate anxiety.
8. In cats, a medication called Gabapentin may be given prior to appointments to help calm them. This is a capsule, but it can also be opened and the contents mixed with canned food.
9. Consider Doggy Day Care if dogs have separation anxiety.
10. Crate or confine ONLY if it can be done in such a way that the dog doesn't cause self trauma.
Your veterinarian will generate a plan that is tailored to your pet's personality and needs and your ability to manage his or her anxiety. We encourage you to read about this problem.