Separation Anxiety in Senior Pets

Feb 24, 2020   Tracey Aston   Senior Pet Care

As our pets begin to age, they can develop new behavioral issues that didn't have in the past, such as separation anxiety. While the symptoms of separation anxiety are the same as their younger counterparts, the reasoning behind them can be extremely different. In senior pets, these behaviors can be the result of declining cognitive function or limitations due to physical decline.

As our pets age, they are more likely to be dealing with joint and mobility issues, sight and hearing loss and possibly canine cognitive dysfunction.  These ailments can leave our pets feeling susceptible and vulnerable when left alone. The most common difference in senior separation anxiety and canine cognitive decline is separation anxiety only occurs when the pet parent is gone or in some cases as severe as the pet parent simply being out of sight.

Symptoms of separation anxiety can show up as panting, pacing, excessively licking, obsessive barking, excessive destruction, attempting to escape through doors or breaking their crate, or having accidents indoors. With all pets, but especially with senior pets, all possible medical conditions should be ruled out first. Unlike younger pets when displaying these symptoms training may not always address the issue. A pet who is fearful of being left alone due to abandonment worries isn't the same as a pet with mobility issues knowing they rely on their pet parents for even the simplest of things - like moving positions or getting a drink.  In cases of senior health, when the diagnosis isn't likely to improve, the best way to help our pets is to manage their symptoms.

Older pets can be pretty stubborn, set in their ways and used to doing things they only way the know. For this reason, following a pet's strict routine can help alleviate some of their anxiety. Our article on Pet Routines shows the many ways our pets benefit from having a routine. This is even more so true for our senior pets who rely on us more and more as they age. If a pet knows their water will be brought to them at a certain time, or a dog with sight issues knows they will be gently carried out to do their business, they won't feel so vulnerable to their surroundings.

Some pets will respond to the house not feeling empty and therefore will benefit from a TV or radio left on while you're away. There are even CDs made such as Whole Tunes and Through A Dog's Ear made specifically for anxious pets that may provide some anxiety relief.

Pets with failing sense may become more anxious as they don't hear or see as well as they used to do. Never sneak up on a pet with failing senses and make sure they are aware of your arrival either with stomping footsteps to provide vibrations or making sure you approach your pet front the front.   If your pet is dealing with anxiety from poor or failing senses, our article Assistive Devices for Pets  may have just the idea you need to help a pet regain some of their independence and feel less anxious.

Some products such as rescue remedy or calming pheromone products can provide temporary relief for an anxious pet. In extreme cases, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed by a veterinarian.  Never use prescription medication for a pet without first consulting their veterinarian to check for side effects or possible medication interactions with other prescriptions.

I don't have to tell you, our pets are bonded with us and can sense our moods and react accordingly. A pet parent who is becoming agitated at accidents or worried about a fall down the stairs can be transferring that worry about their pets.

Our pets have provided us care and nurturing their entire lives and have helped us in many ways, now is our time to return the favor with compassion and understanding. Always address the problems to give your beloved pet quality of life but remember to give patience and kindness to the friend who has always been there for you! 

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