Dogs with Increased Sensitivity

Increased Sensitivity and Separation Anxiety in Older Dogs

Last time we laid the foundation for our upcoming discussions on getting older with our dogs and generated an awful lot of interest, especially when it came to those sad statistics about some dog owners getting rid of their older companions at shelters.

This time, we’d like to talk about some of the anxiety behind your dog’s aging and what you can do to help your old friend.

Having been the proud companion of quite a few older dogs over the years, I’ve witnessed many cognitive changes in my dogs as they got older.

Some on the subtle side, and some a little more severe:

  • Fear of the telephone ringing
  • Fear of the microwave beep or any comparable sound
  • Fear of bed time when the lights go out and the t.v. gets shut down
  • Suddenly afraid of thunderstorms
  • Not wanting to walk on certain flooring

One of the most commonly reported concerns among owners of older dogs is that of separation anxiety. While it may seem more reasonable that this is a puppy thing; it’s actually true that older dogs suffer more with the condition and with, as we’ve learned, reasonable fears of abandonment. (

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a psychological condition in which the sufferer experiences anxiety pertaining to separation from home or individuals or sometimes even situations.

This usually involves a strong emotional attachment and is generally associated with human children. About five to 25 percent of kids are impacted by some form of separation anxiety.

In our pets, this tends to manifest itself in later years. Because older dogs can have increased sensitivity, attachments can be made that are “threatened” by things like change, the arrival of new pets or family members, travel, being left alone, and other “new” things.

What are the signs?

Older dogs with separation anxiety will exhibit a number of symptoms.

  • They may sense your departure, for instance, and may start pacing, drooling, panting, hiding, or even trembling as you get ready to go out somewhere.
  • They may also soil the house when you leave, giving you a nice little present upon your return.
  • They may become more destructive.  In the case of destruction, the areas dogs with separation anxiety take to are generally around the points of exit in your home. In other words, your older dog may start chewing around the door or windows. He or she may even soil around that area.
  • Another reported symptom of separation anxiety in older dogs is the refusal to eat when the dog is alone. He or she may only eat when you’re around and may even ignore dog treats when you’re out.

What can you do to relax your older dog?

As we’ve been discussing, growing old gracefully with our dogs is kind of an art form. It requires a lot of patience and understanding, as our canine companions are going through changes much in the same way we are. Separation anxiety is but one manifestation of these changes.

It can be hard to handle, but be patient with your dog at all times. There are some treatment options available, most of which focus on cognitive and behavioral therapies.

I’ve learned to be very open minded, because what doesn’t work for one dog, will work for another.  Anyway, here’s some ideas for calming anxious dogs:

  • I like the Thundershirt a lot.  I noticed a difference in my Jenna (in the picture above) when she wore it.  Over 2,000 dog owners give it 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
  •  Now brand Melatonin is another excellent natural option for dogs with anxiety issues.  I prefer NOW brand over most others.  If your dog is taking other drugs, discuss with your vet prior.  Dosage is as follows:
  1. Small dogs: 0.5 – 1.0mg as needed every 8 hrs.
  2. Medium dogs: 1.0 – 3.0mg as needed every 8 hrs.
  3. Large dogs: 3.0-9.0mg as needed every 8 hrs.

Remember that getting older with your dog is a journey and that you can really teach an old dog new tricks.

With the help of the right therapeutic options and a little research, you can ease your dog’s suffering with separation anxiety and grow old together with richness and compassion.