Canine separation anxiety: prioritizing treatment

dvm360dvm360 March 2024
Volume 55
Issue 3
Pages: 23

The effects of separation anxiety in dogs and available treatment methods

Sponsored by Zomedica

Canine separation anxiety (CSA) is a common behavioral disorder in dogs that can notably impact the human-animal bond. Pet owners want to ensure their dogs are comfortable, but avoiding that separation is not always an option. Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, of dvm360 Live, sat down with Christopher Pachel, dvm, dacvb, cabc, to discuss the impact of and treatment options for CSA.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: How many dogs in the United States are affected by CSA?

Christopher Pachel, DVM, DACVB, CABC: It depends on which study you look at but, generally, the estimate is around 17%, so roughly 1 in 6 dogs. About 13 million dogs in the United States are affected by a negative emotional state that occurs when they’re separated from their pet parents or left home alone.

Christman: How does CSA impact the human-animal bond?

Pachel: Separation anxiety is something I hear about frequently from pet parents. They mention how devastating it is to know that, when they need to leave their pet alone, they’re experiencing an emotional crisis. It’s often a helpless feeling for those pet parents because they aren’t there to comfort or soothe their pets.

Christman: When it comes to treating CSA, how do pet owners feel about the current options? What are their main concerns and priorities when it comes to finding the right treatment?

Pachel: I’d say that the big 3 treatment options involve some form of management. It’s not always doable but avoidance, or trying to leave the pet alone less frequently, helps to minimize panic. Then there is training and behavior modification that teaches animals to self-soothe and be calm and nonreactive when they’re left alone. Then we have pharmaceutical options, which can directly target that emotional response to help those animals feel comfortable. It can be a labor-intensive process and some of those interventions create a potential for adverse effects. If I told my clients to never leave their dog home alone, they wouldn’t be able to live their lives. Avoidance is helpful, but it’s also difficult to do. Then, even if pet parents have the time for training options, they may not be skilled in that area. The onboarding of those skills can take time, effort, and financial resources. There is also pushback on some of the pharmaceutical options. People love their pets and don’t want a personality change; they’re just looking for those animals to be comfortable when they’re home alone.

Christman: Calmer Canine® is a drug-free option for treating CSA. How does Calmer Canine work? What is the treatment protocol?

Pachel: It’s a fantastic intervention that I’m grateful to have on the market. It utilizes technology called targeted pulse electromagnetic frequency, which is very similar to the technology used within the Assisi LOOP® that typically targets pain and inflammation. Calmer Canine is a device that sits within a harness or vest that the animal can comfortably wear. The animal wears it for roughly 15 minutes, twice a day, at least 8 hours apart. The overall course of treatment is generally 4 to 6 weeks long. Compared to other options, it can be easier for the client to put the device on and calmly sit with their dog for 15 minutes twice a day.

Christman: What types of results can be seen after using Calmer Canine as prescribed?

Pachel: The results have been profound. There have been 2 studies. One was presented at the International Veterinary Behavior Meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2019, and in that small pilot study, all the animals showed statistically significant improvements in those metrics of separation anxiety. Another study was published in 2021 with 40 dogs that had moderate to severe separation anxiety signs. At least two-thirds of those dogs showed marked improvement in signs of distress when they were left home alone, and there was also an increase in comfort behaviors like playing and resting.

Christman: Can Calmer Canine be used in other species, or on other anxieties?

Pachel: It’s only been studied in dogs. There’s a potential to look at other species in the future but it’s currently directed toward canines. The anecdotal research or information coming in from practitioners and pet owners implies that, while it is targeted for separation anxiety, there have been improvements in other conditions like noise phobia or generalized anxiety. These conditions operate at similar centers within the brain with negative emotional responses. If a pet does have other fear anxiety or stress-related conditions, it’s possible that those owners will appreciate those additional benefits.

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