Search on Experts' advice

Separation anxiety in our animals 

Separation anxiety in our animals 

- Categories : Behaviour

© Martine Lavallée, Technicienne en santé animale et BAA

oday, and for a long time now, we know that our dogs and cats can suffer from separation anxiety (SDA) when we leave them home alone. SDA can be the result of inappropriate human-pet relationships and behaviors, but it can also be the result of mental illness in our pets. 


This contemporary phenomenon is very rarely found in the wild, where the rules of exchange, attachment and learning are the basis of relationships between individuals in the same pack. It is estimated that 30% of dogs suffer from some degree of ADS. This makes it the most common disorder in dogs. In contrast, ADS is much rarer in cats.  


An animal with ADS will exhibit a variety of behavioral problems when left alone in the house or when its routine is changed. Controlling or even eliminating ADS is not impossible. This is done gradually, usually in conjunction with professional follow-up and often with medication. For any owner of a pet with ADS, it is important to modify certain behaviours to avoid increasing the pet's anxiety. 

chat beige et blanc

L'ADS chez le chat

Our cats may experience anxiety as adults if they were separated from their mothers too early, or because of early weaning, or because they were purchased from a pet store. ADS signs follow in the absence of the master such as: 

Defecation and urination outside the litter box  

• Excessive meowing 

• Constantly seeking the owner's presence  

• Refusal to eat  

• Hiding all day 

L'ADS chez le chien

Our dog may suffer from ADS following a change of owner or a drastic change in schedule and/or routine. Shelter dogs in particular can experience anxiety because they have a constant fear of abandonment. Behavioral problems observed are:

•  Defecation and urination in the house  
•  Destruction of objects by scratching 
•  Compulsive biting of objects
•  Great agitation 
•  Excessive salivation 
•  Walking around all the time 
•  Vocalization  

chien roux
chien corgi avec harnais
Photo courtesy of Thundershirt

How to proceed

The first thing to do is to consult a veterinarian and a specialist in animal behavior! The veterinarian can prescribe, if necessary, homeopathic, natural or pharmaceutical medications to help our pet relax. The animal behavior specialist will give us all the tips to eliminate stressful situations as well as those aimed at improving our response to our animal's reaction. It is important to be persistent, no matter what treatment is chosen.

The use of an anti-stress shirt such as the Thundershirt during stressful events such as thunderstorms or sudden departures from the house, is an interesting tool.

Here are some small actions we can take.

•  Change routines before each departure: Preparations for departure and the way we behave before we leave can trigger anxiety. Let's start by getting our pet used to our absence by practicing repetitive entries and exits from the house. First for a few seconds, then for minutes, then for half an hour, etc. This way, we gradually trivialize the source of stress. Also, let's try to discreetly organize our departure preparations a few days before.

•  Teach your pet to relax: At all times, use rewards (small treats) to communicate and reinforce good behaviors each time your pet does them.

•  Be truly present when we are there: A pet that is bored when its owner is home may find the time even longer when he is away. Before we leave for the day, let's spend some quality time with him by playing with him to expend energy, both physically and mentally.

•  Establish a healthier relationship between us and your pet: Our pet needs to be able to live without us for a few hours. When we are at home, let's ignore his excessive demands for attention.

•  Leave the TV or radio on and the lights on while we are away: In addition, set a timer to go off 15-20 minutes before we return to let our pet know that we will be home soon. For pets that don't handle prolonged absence well, we can have someone visit our pet once or twice during the day.

•  Fight boredom and provide a stimulating environment: If we are the only source of pleasure for our pet, it's natural that he or she doesn't like us being away. Let's leave stimulating toys at his disposal like the Aikiou Stimulo smart bowl for his food ration. This bowl asks our cat to decipher how to access his kibble. It can keep him busy for a long time!

•  Let's not reassure our anxious pet: Let's not be tempted to pet or reassure our anxious pet when he is in crisis. It's best to ignore him so as not to encourage his negative behavior. By reassuring an anxious pet, we are telling him that he is right to dramatize what he is experiencing.

Supplements:  Using natural products can be very effective in helping control ADS. Here are my three favorite products, designed by Zanimo;

EMU SPRAY and CALMING SPRAY are products that must be sprayed in our pet's environment (chair, cushion, basket, carrier, car or any other place he likes). They can also be sprayed directly on our pet if needed.

CALM EMOTION is a liquid that is administered orally (directly into the mouth)

bouteilles produits zanimo

Crate Uses: It is possible, and sometimes desirable, to leave our dog in a crate or small safe room with a blanket, toys, water, and cookies for part of the day. However, a crate should never be used to punish a pet or if it causes panic. Also, as with many new things, you should gradually get your dog used to the crate or safe room.


It is imperative that you never punish an animal suffering from separation anxiety! This will only increase his anxiety and undesirable behaviors. Similarly, overexcited dogs should not be rewarded with attention immediately after coming home. It's best to let the animal calm down before rewarding it to teach it that it must be calm if it wants to receive attention.

Where to find the products in this article?

Use our store locator. You will find our products at many retailers.

Sources :

  • Clinique vétérinaire de Beaumont
  • Oven-Baked Tradition
  • Zanimo

Share this content