how to fix separation anxiety in older dogs

How To Fix Separation Anxiety In Older Dogs? A Must-Read Guide!

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Anxiety is a psychological condition characterized by fear, worry, or unease. It is a normal emotion that humans and animals experience until and unless it gets worse. In older dogs, anxiety can manifest as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in older dogs happens when your pup is left alone.

As our furry friend gets older, he may experience changes in their behavior and temperament. Separation anxiety in older dogs can be a frustrating and stressful experience for both the dog and its human family. Therefore, it is crucial to address separation anxiety in older dogs with appropriate management and treatment, which may include behavior modification, medication, and environmental modifications to help the dog feel safer and more at ease when left alone.


How to fix separation anxiety in older dogs


In this article, we will explore the causes of separation anxiety in older dogs, signs to look out for, and tips to help manage the condition.

Do You Know What Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs Is?

Separation anxiety in older dogs is a condition that leads to behavior changes, health issues, cognitive decline, and many more. It causes dogs to become extremely distressed when separated from their owners or other family members. While it is most commonly associated with young puppies, older dogs can also experience separation anxiety. According to estimated research, up to 20% of senior dogs experience separation anxiety.

This anxiety can lead to behavioral problems, such as aggression, self-injury, and avoidance. In older dogs, separation anxiety can develop for various reasons, such as changes in their living environment, loss of a companion, or cognitive decline. It triggers health problems, such as hearing or vision loss, which makes the dog more anxious and disoriented when left alone.  


dog disoriented due to anxiety

Moreover, constant Anxiety and stress can lead to physical health problems, such as gastrointestinal issues, decreased appetite, and weight loss. Separation anxiety in older dogs can be distressing for the dog and the owner, as it can affect the dog’s quality of life and the owner’s ability to leave the dog alone. 

What Are The Possible Reasons For Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs?

Several factors can contribute to separation anxiety in older dogs. However, there are some most common causes of separation anxiety in older dogs include the;


  • Aging: 

In senior dogs, separation anxiety develops and worsens significantly more as they age. As dogs age, they may become more dependent on their owners and get prone to developing separation anxiety when left alone.


  • Hyperattachment To Owner:

Hyper attachment is a term used to describe a dog’s excessive attachment to its owner or a specific family member. When a dog is hyper-attached to its owner, it may follow them around the house, seek constant attention, and become anxious or distressed when separated from its owner.

dog hyper attached to its owner

  • Increased Oxytocin Hormone:

Oxytocin is a hormone often associated with feelings of love, attachment, and bonding — including between dogs and their owners. Research has shown that dogs, like humans, also experience an increase in oxytocin levels during social interactions with their owners. Some studies have suggested that increased oxytocin levels may contribute to the development of separation anxiety in dogs, particularly in older dogs.

However, oxytocin itself might not be the sole cause of separation anxiety in older dogs, it may play a role in exacerbating the condition. 


  • Loss of a Companion: 

The loss of a companion, whether a human family member, another dog, or a pet of another species, is a significant trigger for separation anxiety in older dogs. Dogs are social animals that often form close bonds with their companions, and losing that companionship can be traumatic and distressing.


  • Health Issues: 

Older dogs may also experience changes in their physical and mental health, which can contribute to the development of separation anxiety. For example, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) is a common condition in older dogs that can cause confusion, disorientation, and memory loss. Dogs with CDS may become anxious and distressed when separated from their owners, as they may feel disoriented or confused.

If you want to know more about Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), click here.

  • Trauma: 

Older dogs may have a history of past experiences that can contribute to the development of separation anxiety. Dogs who have experienced trauma or neglect in the past may be more prone to developing separation anxiety, particularly as they age and become more dependent on their owners. 

Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs Symptoms:

The signs of separation anxiety in older dogs can vary from mild to severe. Some typical warning signs and symptoms are as follows:

  • Excessive barking, howling or whining when left alone
  • House soiling or destructive behavior, such as chewing or scratching furniture or doors
  • Urinating or defecating in the house, even if the dog is house-trained
  • Escaping or attempting to escape from the house or yard
  • Pacing or restlessness when you pick up your keys or jacket to leave home
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Depression or lethargy
  • Less interest in toys 

Best Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs:

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing separation anxiety in older dogs. However, several tips can help alleviate symptoms and make the experience less stressful for both— the dog and their human family.

Some tips that are highly-recommended by our expert vets:

  1. Gradually increase the time spent apart: Start by leaving your dog alone for a few minutes and gradually increase the time. This will help your dog get used to being alone and reduce anxiety.
  2. Create a safe and comfortable space: Provide your dog with a comfortable bed, toys, and treats in a designated area of your home. This space should be a place where your dog feels safe and secure.
  3. Practice leaving and returning: Before leaving your dog alone, practice leaving and returning several times. This will help your dog understand that you will always come back.
  4. Use calming aids: Consider using calming aids such as pheromone sprays or diffusers, music, or natural remedies to help your dog relax.
  5. Exercise and mental stimulation: Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. This will help reduce anxiety and boredom.

Some more professional tips include:
(But remember it’s always better to consult a vet before using any medications or technique)

  • Independent Training: 

Independent training is a necessary component when it comes to treating separation anxiety in older dogs. It involves slowly getting your dog used to being independent. Begin by only leaving your dog alone for brief intervals, then gradually extend that time. It will help your dog become more comfortable with being independent and reduce their anxiety. 


  • Clomipramine Medication: 


clomipramine injection to treat separation anxiety in older dogs

Clomipramine is an antidepressant medication used in veterinary medicine to treat certain behavioral disorders in dogs, such as separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and aggression. The standard dose of clomipramine for dogs can vary depending on the condition treated and the individual dog’s size and weight.

However, it is crucial to note that clomipramine can have potential side effects in dogs, including dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, and changes in appetite. As with any medication, it is significant to work closely with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate dose of clomipramine.

To gain more information about the clomipramine medication for your little friend, check this.


  • Seek Professional Help: 


drugs to treat dog's anxiety


If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe or not improving with home management, consider seeking the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can assist in determining the root reasons for your dog’s anxiety and creating a customized treatment plan. 

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