What exactly is separation anxiety in animals, and is it common?
If you have a pet, you have a bond like no other—just check out all the benefits of having a pet. But you have to think of their needs too, and anytime pets are separated from the person they’re most bonded to, they’re likely to experience anxiety, explains Jennifer Garrepy, an animal behavior consultant and energy healer.
Separation anxiety is not to be taken lightly, explains Garrepy: “It is a very serious disorder characterized by extreme emotional and behavioral reactions. It can be compared to panic disorder in humans.” And doesn’t only happen to dogs. Though less frequent, other species like cats, parrots, and mice, can suffer from the disorder.
“At its most extreme, it can result in death,” warns Garrepy. “For example, dogs will run through glass windows, jump off ledges, or run away looking for you and get hit by a car.” Which is why taking precautions can make all the difference.
Common signs of separation anxiety
Jeroen van den Broek/shutterstock
If you’ve been wondering why your pup has been suddenly chewing the furniture, a habit that seemed to come out of nowhere, you should consider separation anxiety as the culprit—or one of these 9 other potential causes of anxiety in pets. According to Garrepy, the most common signs include:
Destructive behavior—clawing at the door, chewing through window screens, chewing up the couch, gnawing on the crate
Constant barking, meowing, howling
Pooping or peeing in the house (dogs) or outside the litter box (cats)
Panting and salivating
Refusing to eat or drink when left alone
Signs that are more subtle
Knowing the most common signs can surely help you take a step back and reevaluate what is causing your pet’s anxiety, but sometimes there are signs that seem normal, like your cat throwing up a fur ball or your dog panting. But when it happens excessively, something’s up. Get familiar with the 50 things pets would tell you if they could talk because their actions are the only way they can communicate with you.
Be aware of the lesser known signs that your animal is experiencing separation anxiety:
Pacing, panting, hiding, jumping and frenetically moving about while you’re gone
Insisting on being with the owner at all times, following them from room to room
Excessive grooming which can show up as bald spots (cats)
“When you get ready to leave, a cat may try to get between the owner and the door or may hide, and when you return, the cat may show an abnormally enthusiastic greeting,” notes Garrepy.