What is separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety is a disease in which affected dogs may exhibit certain problematic behaviors when left alone. Dogs are social animals, and naturally become bonded to family members in their household. When separated from these people, such as when the owner leaves for work or to run an errand, certain dogs may experience distress and engage in unacceptable behaviors as a result of the anxiety of separation.1
What are the signs of separation anxiety in dogs?
The more common behaviors associated with separation anxiety include2:
- Destruction of household items by chewing or tearing
- Barking, howling and/or whining
- Defecating or urinating in the house while alone, particularly in “odd” places
- Scratching or digging
- Heavy drooling, vomiting, hyperventilating or rapid heart rate
- Pacing or circling
- Attempting to escape (signs of damage occur around doors or windows)
These negative behaviors typically occur within 10 to 30 minutes after the owner leaves the house, and bouts of rest may alternate with barking and destructive behavior every 40 to 60 minutes.1,3,4
If my dog exhibits some of these signs, what should I do?
If your dog is showing any signs of separation anxiety, ensure your dog is examined by your veterinarian to rule out other possible reasons for the behaviors, such as a medical condition. Once a physical examination and any necessary laboratory work have ruled out a medical cause, your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s behavioral history4:
- How does your dog respond when you are coming and going?
- Do the inappropriate behaviors (e.g., destruction of household items, barking/whining, soiling or urinating in the house) occur only when you are away or also when you are at home?
- When did the behavior problems begin? What were the circumstances?
- How do you interact with your dog on a daily basis (e.g., giving attention, playing, going for walks)?
Videotapes or audiotapes recorded when your dog is home alone can be very helpful in confirming the diagnosis of separation anxiety.4
I love my dog and provide significant care and attention as much as possible. Did something I do cause this or is he just being spiteful?
No one has a definitive answer about the cause of separation anxiety, which can develop at any age in either sex4 and has been diagnosed in all breeds. Potential triggers of separation anxiety include1-5:
- Inherited predisposition
- Lack of socialization
- Selective breeding that has created dogs socially dependent on humans
- History of abuse
- Time spent at an animal shelter
- Dysfunctional attachment to the owner
- Changes in the owner’s work schedule or daily routine
- Moving to a different residence
- Alteration of the family structure through birth or death
- New owner or family
- Aging and decline of cognition
Your dog is not bad or spiteful, but is suffering from a readily treatable condition.
Can separation anxiety be managed?
Yes, there are steps that you can take to help your dog become more independent. When it is clear that the behaviors are not caused by a physical problem, your veterinarian will develop a comprehensive treatment plan for separation anxiety that may involve medication, behavior training and owner commitment. Reconcile® chewable tablets, when administered in conjunction with a simple training plan that you undertake at home, is one treatment option that has been shown to reduce these problematic behaviors.
What are Reconcile® chewable tablets?
Reconcile (fluoxetine hydrochloride) is approved by the FDA for the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs in conjunction with a behavior modification plan. Prescribed by your veterinarian, Reconcile is a flavored, chewable tablet given once a day with or without food. Reconcile chewable tablets are for use in dogs and puppies 6 months of age or older, and 8.8 pounds (4.0 kilograms) or greater.
How does this medication work?
Reconcile chewable tablets work by making your dog more receptive to your training program. Reconcile is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI. Chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters communicate information between nerve cells, known as neurons. These neurotransmitters are released into the space between two cells, called a synapse, and are then reabsorbed back into the neuron that released them. One such neurotransmitter, called serotonin, is responsible for many functions within the brain, including the control of anxiety. Low levels of serotonin in a dog’s brain may result in impaired communication between nerves, producing an increased level of anxiety.6 Reconcile can help correct this chemical imbalance by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and temporarily increase its level in the brain. Veterinary experts believe that higher levels of serotonin improve communication and strengthen circuits in the brain that act to decrease anxiety.
What does my veterinarian need to know about my dog before prescribing Reconcile chewable tablets?
Before prescribing Reconcile chewable tablets, your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination to rule out causes of inappropriate behavior unrelated to separation anxiety. Key points of your visit may include the following:
- A thorough physical examination that may include laboratory analysis of blood and/or urine.
- A discussion of your dog’s complete health history, training history and household environment.
- A discussion of any medications that you are giving now, or have given over the last several months to your dog,including over-the-counter and herbal supplements.
How do I give Reconcile chewable tablets to my dog?
Reconcile is a chewable flavored tablet that is readily consumed by most dogs. If your dog does not readily accept the Reconcile chewable tablet, it may be offered in food or administered like other tablet medications. Follow your veterinarian’s directions regarding how much medication to administer.
Reconcile is given once a day and can be given with or without food.
If a dose is missed, the next scheduled dose should be given as prescribed. Do not increase or double the dose. If more than the prescribed amount of Reconcile chewable tablets are given, contact your veterinarian, who is the healthcare expert for your dog.
Can I just use the behavior training plan without Reconcile?
The combined use of these techniques with Reconcile chewable tablets has been proven to work faster and better than training alone for the management of separation anxiety. Results of clinical trials have shown that after 8 weeks 73% of dogs receiving Reconcile and behavior modification training had significant behavioral improvement, compared with only 51% of dogs receiving behavior modification alone.7 Reconcile has been shown to accelerate your dog’s response to behavior training, thereby reducing detrimental behaviors.
How long should I expect this to take before the behavior improves? Will the behaviors completely go away?
Some dogs may show improvement within 1 to 2 weeks of starting treatment with Reconcile chewable tablets. Others may take as long as 8 weeks to show improvement. Your veterinarian will monitor the response to Reconcile chewable tablets and the training plan. If no improvement is noted within 8 weeks, your veterinarian should discuss alternative treatment plans for your dog.
What side effects might occur while my dog is taking Reconcile chewable tablets?
As with all medications, side effects may occur. Your veterinarian can best describe these for you and discuss what to do if you observe any unexpected effects or unusual behavior in your dog. The most serious side effect is seizures (convulsions), which in rare and severe cases can result in death. Based on clinical field studies, some animals may appear more calm or lethargic. Additional side effects that may be observed include decreased appetite, vomiting, shaking or shivering, diarrhea, restlessness, excessive vocalization or whining, aggression, ear infections, disorientation, incoordination, constipation, excessive salivation and weight loss.8 Since the introduction of Reconcile, additional side effects reported are anxiety, dilated pupils, panting and confusion.9
Can I continue other medications while my pet is taking Reconcile® chewable tablets?
Yes, Reconcile chewable tablets have been given safely with a wide variety of routinely administered products and medications, including vaccines, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and products used for the control of fleas, intestinal worms and heartworms. There are a few products and medications that you should not give to your dog before, during or after treatment with Reconcile chewable tablets because together, they can cause serious side effects. Your veterinarian should be made aware of all products, including over-the-counter and herbal supplements, that you intend to administer to your dog.
Do I have to give Reconcile chewable tablets forever?
Each dog has a unique response to treatment. Your veterinarian will monitor your dog’s progress and work with you to determine the appropriate length of treatment for your dog.
BOND® BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION TRAINING
What is the BOND behavior modification training plan? Why does my dog need this?
Your veterinarian will instruct you on how to incorporate simple training techniques, referred to as “behavior modification.” The BOND behavior modification plan consists of four easy steps that can help your dog build confidence and gain a sense of security when alone.
- Be positive. Focus on positive behaviors that are critical to the success of behavior modification by rewarding your dog with a tummy rub, tasty treat or a toy when he exhibits calm and relaxed responses.
- Only reward calm behavior. Encourage calm behaviors by ignoring your dog’s overly excited, attention-seeking activities. Look for opportunities to spend positive, relaxed time with your dog, like taking a neighborhood walk.
- No more drama when you come and go. Much of your dog’s anxiety-driven behavior may be a result of stress when you come and go from the house. Grabbing your belongings can be a cue that creates anxiety. There are several activities you can use to alleviate the drama upon your departure and return.
- Develop your dog’s independence. Help your dog develop independence by rewarding him with a treat or attention only when he is relaxed. You can also provide a safe place, such as a small rug, to teach him to stay for increasing periods of time and at an increasing distance from you.
Behavior modification training is an essential component in the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. For more detailed information on BOND training, go to Reconcile.com to view a video describing additional training tips.
My schedule limits the time I have to provide behavior training. Would taking my pet to behavior training school instead be an option?
Separation anxiety occurs when your dog is separated from the people to whom he is most attached – you and your family – which means that you have a key role in any successful treatment plan. The goal of behavior modification training for dogs with separation anxiety is teaching the dog to be more independent and gain a sense of security when alone in the home. That’s why the training is most effective when done by you, the pet owner, in your home, rather than taking your dog to behavior training school. Fortunately, the training involves simple steps that generally can be done during time you already spend interacting with your dog each day without requiring a great deal of additional time.
Can’t I just give my dog the chewable tablets?
While Reconcile has been shown to accelerate your dog’s response to behavior training, this training is an essential component in the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved use of Reconcile for the treatment of canine separation anxiety in conjunction with a behavior modification plan directed by your veterinarian. Inappropriate use of Reconcile chewable tablets without concurrent behavior modification may not provide any lasting benefit of therapy. Instead, long-term success is most likely to be seen when these two components – Reconcile chewable tablets plus the BOND behavior modification program – are used together as prescribed by your veterinarian.7
- Parthasarathy V, Crowell-Davis SL. Relationship between attachment to owners and separation anxiety in pet dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). J Vet Behav. 2006;1:109-120.
- Schwartz S. Separation anxiety syndrome in dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2003;22(11):1526-1532.
- Blackwell E, Casey RA, Bradshaw WS. Controlled trial of behavioural therapy for separation-related disorders in dogs. Vet Rec. 2006;158:51-554.
- Horwitz DF. Separation anxiety in dogs. NAVC Clinician’s Brief. 2008;11:61-62.
- Takeuchi Y, Houpt KA, Scarlett JM. Evaluation of treatments for separation anxiety in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2000;17(3):342-345.
- Simpson BS, Landsberg GM, Reisner IR, et al. Effects of Reconcile (fluoxetine) chewable tablet plus behavior management for canine separation anxiety. Vet Ther. 2007:8(1):18-31.
- Pharmacokinetic study D00901. Freedom of Information Summary NADA 141-272; Reconcile Fluoxetine Hydrochloride Chewable Tablets: Dogs. 2007:11.
- PRN Pharmacal, Reconcile Product label, 2018.
- Toxicity study D3760. Freedom of Information Summary NADA 141-272; Reconcile Fluoxetine Hydrochloride Chewable Tablets: Dogs. 2007:9.