Separation Anxiety In Dogs: What’s the Cause

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science wanted to find out what the cause of separation anxiety in dogs.  Many dogs suffer with this and sometimes it can be quite frustrating not only to the dog but also to the owner.  Treatment is usually to help the dog overcome the pain of separation.  But these researchers have found that overcoming the pain of separation may not be the best course.  They found that just like in people, there are multiple reasons why a dog may suffer from separation anxiety.  The top 4 reasons are as follows:


a desire to avoid something in the house

a desire to go outside

a reaction to noises and events

The following is a quote by Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioral Medicine in a press release on the study.

“Until now, there has been a tendency to think of this as a single condition, ie ‘My dog has got separation anxiety’ and then to focus on the dependence on the owner and how to make them more independent. However, this new work indicates that having separation anxiety is more like saying ‘My dog’s got an upset tummy’ which could have many causes and take many forms, and so both assessment and treatment need to be much more focused,”

“If your dog makes themselves ill by chewing something it shouldn’t, you would need to treat it very differently to if it has picked up an infection. One problem might need surgery and the other antibiotics,” he adds. “Labeling the problem of the dog who is being destructive, urinating or defecating indoors or vocalizing when left alone as separation anxiety is not very helpful. It is the start of the diagnostic process, not the end. Our new research suggests that frustration in its various forms is very much at the heart of the problem and we need to understand this variety if we hope to offer better treatments for dogs.”

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