The leading disorder in dogs

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adogslifephoto / 123RF Stock Photo
adogslifephoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Anxiety disorders are probably the most common class of disorders in dogs today according to animal behaviour expert, Dr Gaille Perry, a speaker at last month’s state conference of the WA division of the Australian Veterinarian Association (AVA). The conference was titled Heads or Tails? How to make better decisions when diagnosing and treating those challenging cases.

In her presentation, Dr Perry talked about recognising and diagnosing anxiety and ways to manage what may be genetic or learned behaviour, and is often triggered by periods of stress.

“Anxiety is a medical condition and if an owner suspects that their pet is displaying signs of the disorder (such as trembling, tail tucked, withdrawal, hiding and reduced activity), they should speak to their veterinarian as soon as possible so that a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan can begin,” Dr Perry advised.

Dr Perry explained that for a veterinarian to accurately diagnose an anxiety disorder, they must rely on the owner to provide essential information about the dog’s behavioural history.

Vets also need to perform a physical exam and possibly blood and/or urine tests, especially if medication forms part of the dog’s treatment plan.

As for treating an anxious pooch, Perry said that “sometimes management changes alone can resolve the issue, but to successfully manage the patient’s behaviour, all triggers for the behaviour must be identified and access to them controlled. Part of good management is also a good routine complete with an enrichment and training program.”

Perry warned that punishment should never be used when training an anxious dog as it only further increases the anxiety and impedes learning of the desired behaviour. She also said that every case is different and if medication is required, the type and dose should be based on the individual needs of each patient.

“Medication is used to improve an imbalance in the animal’s neurochemistry—to normalise the animal. It will not solve the problem; it merely assists us to modify the pet’s behavior.”

Based on a media release sourced from the AVA.

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