AVMA Collections Canine Anxiety Disorders



Single-topic compilations of the information shaping our profession
March 2012
 
In this collection:
Diagnosis

Behavior modification

Antianxiety drugs

Alternative therapies

 

Diagnosis

 
 
Separation anxiety syndrome in dogs and cats
SUMMARY: Separation anxiety is one of the most common canine behavior problems and is diagnosed in 20% to 40% of dogs referred to animal behavior practices in North America. In this article Dr. Stephanie Schwartz compares separation anxiety in pets to specific emotional disorders in humans, stating that separation reactions in dogs and cats have much in common with phobic disorders and panic attacks in people. Suggestions for treatment of the condition are also presented.
 
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Stefanie Schwartz
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:1526-1532. June 1, 2003.
 
Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs
SUMMARY: In a study of 200 dogs with separation anxiety and 200 control dogs with other behavior problems, it was found that neutering and living in a home with a single adult human were risk factors for separation anxiety, whereas sex, early separation from the dam, and the presence of other pets in the home were not. The authors of this article also describe a diagnostic index they devised that can be used clinically to evaluate the likelihood of separation anxiety as a cause of problem behaviors in dogs.
 
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Gerrard Flannigan, Nicholas H. Dodman
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:460-466. August 15, 2001.
 
Frequency of nonspecific clinical signs in dogs with separation anxiety, thunderstorm phobia, and noise phobia, alone or in combination
SUMMARY: Questionnaires obtained from owners of 141 dogs that had been determined to have separation anxiety, noise phobia, or thunderstorm phobia were examined to determine how frequently their dogs exhibited destructive behavior, urination, defecation, vocalization, and salivation when the owners were absent. It was found that separation anxiety, noise phobia, and thunderstorm phobia were each nonrandomly associated with the others, such that the presence of 1 condition merits screening for all 3. Noise phobia was most strongly linked to separation anxiety in this study.
 
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Karen L. Overall, Arthur E. Dunham, Diane Frank
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;219:467-473. August 15, 2001.
 

Behavior modification

 

 
Use of clomipramine, alprazolam, and behavior modification for treatment of storm phobia in dogs

SUMMARY: In a clinical trial involving 40 dogs with storm phobia, all dogs were given the same combination of clomipramine, alprazolam, and behavior modification, and improvement was seen in 30 of the 32 dogs that completed the study. It was concluded that although elimination of storm phobia may not be realistic, the combination of treatments used in this study could be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of clinical signs.  

 
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Sharon L. Crowell-Davis, Lynne M. Seibert, Wailani Sung, Valli Parthasarathy, Terry M. Curtis
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:744-748. March 15, 2003.
 
Evaluation of treatments for separation anxiety in dogs
SUMMARY: Through examination of medical records and use of a telephone survey a study was conducted to study the role of owner compliance in effectiveness of treatments for separation anxiety. It was found that compliance varied according to discharge instructions, such that owners who were given more than 5 instructions at discharge were significantly less likely to report improvement in their dogs' separation anxiety, compared with owners who were given fewer instructions. Also, owners complied with instructions that involved little time such as omitting punishment and providing a chew toy at the time of departure, and were willing to increase the dog's exercise but were not willing to uncouple the cues of departure from real departures or desensitize the dog to impending departure. The authors concluded that administration of psychoactive medication may be necessary to augment behavior modification techniques.
 
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Yukari Takeuchi, Katherine A. Houpt, Janet M. Scarlett
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:342-345. August 1, 2000.
 
 

Antianxiety drugs

 
Use of trazodone as an adjunctive agent in the treatment of canine anxiety disorders: 56 cases (1995-2007)
SUMMARY: In human psychiatric medicine, it is common to combine drugs to improve response to treatment, and this practice is becoming increasingly widespread among veterinary behaviorists faced with cases in which treatment with a single agent has provided an inadequate response. A review of medical records of 56 dogs with anxiety and phobic disorders that were treated with trazodone because of inadequate relief of clinical signs following treatment with a tricyclic antidepressant or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor revealed that trazodone was well tolerated over a wide dose range and enhanced behavioral calming when administered on a daily or as-needed basis. Future studies of dose range, efficacy, and safety are needed.
 
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Margaret E. Gruen, Barbara L. Sherman
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008;233:1902-1907. December 15, 2008.
 
Retrospective evaluation of the effects of diazepam in dogs with anxiety-related behavior problems
SUMMARY: In dogs treated with diazepam for behavior problems, adverse effects can be disturbing and may interfere with the behavior modification process. In a cross-sectional study of 37 owners whose dogs had been treated with diazepam, 25 (68%) reported that diazepam was very or somewhat effective, and 18 (49%) reported that they were still administering diazepam. For the 19 owners who no longer were administering diazepam, reasons for discontinuation included adverse effects (ie, agitation, increased activity, ataxia, increased appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting; 11/19 [58%]) and lack of efficacy (10/19 [53%]). Findings indicated that adverse effects were common in dogs treated with diazepam and often caused owners to discontinue drug administration. 
 
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Meghan E. Herron, Frances S. Shofer, Ilana R. Reisner
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008;233:1420-1424. November 1, 2008.
 
Electrocardiographic assessment of antianxiety medication in dogs and correlation with serum drug concentration
SUMMARY: Thirty-nine client-owned dogs with behavioral problems were studied to determine effects of tricyclic antidepressants amitriptyline and clomipramine on the ECG of dogs treated for behavioral conditions and to examine correlations between ECG findings and serum concentrations of these medications. Although no ECG abnormalities were found in healthy dogs, some effects on P waves and Q-T intervals were observed. The authors recommend cautious use of these drugs in dogs with abnormal conduction.
 
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Marsha R. Reich, Dan G. Ohad, Karen L. Overall, Arthur E. Dunham
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216:1571-1575. May 15, 2000.
 
 

Alternative therapies

 
 
Systematic review of the use of pheromones for treatment of undesirable behavior in cats and dogs
SUMMARY: A synthetic analogue of the facial pheromone in cats and a structural analogue of the appeasing maternal pheromone in dogs have been marketed as methods for controlling or managing undesirable behaviors. Although the use of pheromones to control undesirable behaviors is appealing, a systematic review of the published literature from 1998 through 2008 questions their effectiveness. Only 14 reports of prospective studies (7 involving dogs and 7 involving cats) were identified. Of these, 11 provided insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness and 1 did not provide support for effectiveness. Only 1 study provided sufficient evidence that dog-appeasing pheromone reduces fear or anxiety in dogs during training.
 
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Diane Frank, Guy Beauchamp, Clara Palestrini
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;236:1308-1316. June 15, 2010.
 
Effects of dog-appeasing pheromones on anxiety and fear in puppies during training and on long-term socialization
SUMMARY: Dog-appeasing pheromone is produced by lactating bitches and serves to calm and reassure (appease) the offspring. In previous studies, DAP reduced anxiety and fear in dogs in other situations, such as when visiting a veterinary clinic or adjusting to a new home. In a randomized controlled trial involving 45 puppies between 12 and 15 weeks old, placement of a DAP-impregnated collar on puppies reduced degrees of excitability and fear during puppy classes and improved overall satisfaction of owners with their dog. Dogs that wore the collar were also better socialized and adapted faster in new situations and environments.
 
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Sagi Denenberg, Gary M. Landsberg
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2008;233:1874-1882. December 15, 2008.
 
Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs
SUMMARY: Travel-induced excitement poses a hazard to dogs and drivers, but traditional treatments, which rely on behavior modification or administration of psychopharmacologic drugs, may be time-consuming, expensive, or associated with unwanted effects. Previous studies have identified changes in the behavior or physiologic state of animals exposed to various aromas, including herbs, spices, and essential oils, and a study of 32 dogs with a history of travel-induced excitement found that dogs spent significantly more time resting and sitting and less time moving and vocalizing when exposed to diffused lavender odor.
 
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Deborah L. Wells
J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;229:964-967. September 15, 2006.