DEAR PAW’S CORNER: My small mixed-breed dog named Tara has terrible anxiety, especially when I leave the house or during thunderstorms. I have to either put a cone on her or socks on her paws so she doesn’t chew them bloody during these episodes. I hear from other friends that their dogs have anxiety issues as well. Is this problem on the rise? — Sherri L, Kansas City, Mo.
DEAR SHERRI: Evidence isn’t clear that anxiety in dogs is rising, but there is a rise in the understanding and diagnosis of anxiety in pets by veterinarians. This has led to an increase in diagnosis and treatment for pet anxiety. While that is good for pets, there is no “magic bullet” to quickly cure a dog of an anxiety disorder. Tara’s vet can diagnose the problem, and can help you determine different ways to treat her. Medication can be a big help in easing anxiety symptoms, but you also want to look for causes of Tara’s anxiety, and trigger points that set off her paw-chewing. Thunderstorms are one trigger; your leaving the house is another. There are a number of different techniques, both training and interaction, to turn off those triggers. While there’s not room in this column to list them, do some quick research and look for dog training manuals that stress positive reinforcement. Ask the vet and your friends about local dog trainers or specialists who treat pet anxiety issues. In evaluating such professionals, ask what therapies they use or are open to, and make sure they emphasize your role in working with Tara (owners have to put in the time with their dogs). Be circumspect about pet therapists who insist they have a single, one-size-fits-all solution for anxiety.
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