Separation Anxiety In Your Dog: Medical and Behavioral Causes – Part Three

In Part Two of our series on separation anxiety, we looked at four of the most common reasons dogs develop this disorder. Now let’s turn our attention to the factors, both medical and behavioral, that need to be ruled out before you can say with condidence that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.

Medical Problems:

Urinary incontinence – There are a host of medical problems that can cause a dog to urinate in the house. The word “incontinence” refers to the dog’s inability to hold his urine until he can get outside to relieve himself. Sometimes this incontinence can result in a dog that simply seems not to know he has urinated and he may void his bladder in his sleep. Other dogs may “leak” or dribble urine.

Medical conditions that can lead to urinary incontinence include infections of the urinary tract, diabetes, stones in the dog’s bladder, neurological problems, kidney disease and a weakened bladder sphincter as a result of old age, among others. Before you blame your dog’s urinary problems on separation anxiety, see your veterinarian for a consultation.

There are also a number of medications which could possibly be to blame for urinary incontinence or even responsible for your dog defecating in the house. So if your dog is on medications, please consult your veterinarian to see if any of these could be to blame.

Behavioral Problems – There are also a host of behavioral problems that can be easily confused with the symptoms of separation anxiety. Here are the most common:

House training which has been ineffective or incomplete – Dogs who urinate in the house may not be completely trained, due to an inconsistent schedule or which involved punishment, making the dog fearful of relieving himself when the owner is present.

Urinating due to excitement or submission – It’s not uncommon to see dogs who will urinate either during play, when being greeted or having physical contact with the owner or family members. These dogs tend to assume a very submissve posture during these interactions.

Scent marking – Dogs mark their “territory” by urinating a small amount onto a vertical surface, such as the corner of a sofa or a table leg. Male dogs usually raise a leg to do this, but some females will do this also.

Boredom – There are some dogs who are not anxious, but who are simply bored when left alone. They need something to keep them occupied and can engage in destructive behaviors while the owner is absent.

Howling and barking – This can occur in response to various environmental triggers, such as loud noises, sirens or hearing other dogs barking in the distance and these behaviors happen even when the owner is at home.

Youngster destruction – Many puppies and young dogs who have not been fully trained may engage in destructive digging and chewing behaviors, both when their owners are at home and when they are away.

In Part Four of our series, we will look at what to do about your dog’s separation anxiety.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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