PTSD & Separation Anxiety

picture of a german shepherd mixed breed dog jigsaw puzzle with several pieces missing

 

Separation anxiety in dogs is defined by the Humane Society as a “panic response.” This makes sense because it’s an anxiety, and anxiety can come from panic. Unfortunately for some dogs, ALOT of panic and anxiety.

So what can be done? I’ll tell you my theory – I have more fear than I have ways of coping. If I can have more coping skills, I’ll have less fear.  Sounds realistic and practical, right?

Some dogs suffer to the point that they need medication.  And that’s okay.  The medication allows you to start training exercises that make it easier when your human must leave you alone.

PTSD is also a panic/anxiety condition.  Symptoms of separation anxiety and PTSD can overlap. As a dog with both, I can you that it isn’t pleasant.  Some of the symptoms are very visual to humans. I’ve dug up carpet, pulled out my fur, and almost removed a door. After the earthquake that set off my PTSD, I had panic attacks every time a door slammed. It was horrible. Sometimes I would do a “redirect” and go after anyone that came out of a door that slammed. Glad to say I don’t do that anymore. I’ve heard really bad things happen to dogs that are aggressive (even if they don’t mean to be).

If you have symptoms, you need to see a vet.  Your regular vet may not treat this, so you may have to go to a special kind of vet called a Veterinary Behaviorist. Visiting this kind of vet is actually not bad.  The vet I saw let me play with toys and gave me treats! But it’s really important to get the right diagnosis.  And if you need medication (like I did), that’s okay. It’s much better than feeling so bad you mutilate yourself! Yeah, I felt that bad.  With medication and relaxation exercises, I feel awesome! I still get a little concerned when my human leaves, but I’m much better at relaxing and finding a toy to play with. Or sometimes I just like to look out the window. I just don’t stress over it anymore.  And that’s a good thing!

shepherd mixed breed dog puzzle with all of the pieces assembled

I think people (more than dogs) are always looking for a reason. They ask questions like “Why does my dog act like this?” or “Why does my dog have separation anxiety?”  They want to blame it on what happened before I was at the shelter or they blame themselves.  This isn’t fair and to be honest, it’s not necessary.

I simply need coping resources to overcome my fear and pain.  My fear and pain come from my human leaving.  And my human can’t stay with me all of the time (and yours probably can’t either).

So I need more coping resources.  Those resources may be training, desensitization exercises, medications, or probably a combination of all these things. Give me the resources to handle the anxiety, and the anxiety will go away. Humans can’t stay with us all of the time, so there’s only so much that can be done to minimize the pain and fear. So let’s increase those coping resources.

I’ll explore these issues and more in my blogs.  You can also find more information about symptoms in the articles at the below sites:

The ASPCA

The Humane Society of the United States

For more information or suggestions for finding a behavioral vet in your area, contact me directly by clicking here:

lexi@zendogjourney.com

 

Graphic designs courtesy of www.patriciacorekin.com

 

Lexi's Story