"Mental illness in dogs is way more common than we like to think," said Dr. Travis Wodiske with Family VetCare. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Wodiske says one out of every six dogs suffers from canine separation anxiety. (Source: CBS 5 News)
If the anxiety symptoms are severe and persistent, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs - given daily - can help, Wodiske says. (Source: CBS 5 News)
MESA, AZ (CBS5) -
Does your dog seem down in the dumps?
Perhaps it's a little on edge.
Well, he or she could be suffering from mental illness.
Veterinarians said, just like people, pets can suffer from depression and anxiety.
But there is medication that can help.
"Mental illness in dogs is way more common than we like to think," said Dr. Travis Wodiske with Family VetCare. "In fact, one out of every six dogs suffers from canine separation anxiety."
Roxy, a nine-year-old pitbull-lab mix, was one of them.
She was fine as a pup - but, a change in family dynamics during a divorce made her snap.
"Eating curtains, tearing up door frames - if she accidentally got locked in by herself, she would completely destroy a door," said Roxy's owner, Amber Benning.
Those are classic symptoms of separation anxiety which Wodiske said can occur at any time, in any dog - but is most common in pound puppies that are used to having people around.
"All of a sudden, they go to their new forever home and that person goes to work - they just don't know how to deal with that," he explained.
If the symptoms are severe and persistent, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs - given daily - can help.
"These medications, Prozac, Clomicalm - they can take up to four to six weeks to just actually take effect," Wodiske pointed out.
So he recommends medication coupled with training or behavior modification.
Professional dog trainer Mark Siebel with Doggie Steps Dog Training said exercising your pup before you leave can help with anxiety.
He also advises giving them a job to do - like a treat-filled chew toy or rawhide for them to gnaw on.
"It keeps them focused," Siebel explained. "Ultimately, it also gets them mentally and physically tired, better chance they'll take a nap when the owner's gone."
He also recommends desensitizing your dog to signs of your pending departure.
"I would probably avoid having a big farewell when you leave," said Siebel. "Try not to create triggers - such as visually picking a purse up or the sound of keys."
For some dogs, simple training does the trick.
But for others like Roxy, medication was a necessity.
"She was on the Clomicalm for a while," Benning said. "Then when she moved in with us, I have a dog … same size … a lot of the separation anxiety seemed to go away. But the meds in the meantime helped big time."
Wodiske said dogs that suffer from situational anxiety, during the 4th of July and when traveling, can benefit from Xanax or Valium - taken before a stressful event
Wodiske and Siebel both say psychotropic drugs should be used as a last resort.
So if your dog's behavioral problems can't be fixed with training - see your vet.
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