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  • Tattered Love: Help for Separation Anxiety

    Tattered Love: Help for Separation Anxiety

    Does Spot love you so much that when you leave she can’t stand it? Does she get so upset that your rugs, furniture, and anything else she can reach or knock down show signs of her affection? If she is a well-behaved dog when you’re home and only turns into a nut case when she can’t be with you, then Spot is probably suffering from separation anxiety. It is estimated that 10-15 percent of the canine population experiences some type of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is tied to a dog’s natural instinct to be part of a pack, which explains why cats do not seem to suffer from this problem. But there are many things you can do to help your lonely pooch out. She certainly deserves the help; after all, she acts out because she’s longing for you.

    The difference between separation anxiety and just plain bad behavior is easy to spot: pets with separation anxiety only act out when they are unable to get to their owners. In severe cases, anxious pooches will act out even when their owner is simply in another room with the door shut. Common ways of acting out include destructive behavior, excessive barking, house soiling, attempts to escape, loss of appetite, inactivity, sadness or depression, and psychosomatic disorders such as diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive coat licking. Also, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will often closely shadow her owner when they’re together.

    Why Spot?
    Why does your dog suffer from separation anxiety while your neighbor’s dog is fine? The possibilities abound. Some dogs simply do not ever gain enough confidence in themselves to be on their own. For some, it’s because they were left alone for too long when they were puppies. Others have had the misfortune of being abused or neglected. Then there are the poor pups who are pushed from home to home until they finally end up in an animal shelter; needless to say, they might be afraid of being left again.

    Often a beloved pet is fine for years, then suddenly begins to act out. If her behavior seems inexplicable, take a look at the changes in your lifestyle that occurred around the same time Spot decided she loved the taste of your favorite chair. Maybe Mom went back to work, or the kids left for college. Or maybe you got a new job requiring longer hours. Whatever the reason, Spot is spending more time alone, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She worries: “What if they don’t come back?” When the stress is more than she can take, she acts out.

    Taming the trauma
    Dealing with separation anxiety is different than dealing with just the problem behaviors. First, you must learn to check your anger at the door. Punishing Spot will not fix the problem–it will create a bigger problem. Once she associates your absence and return with punishment, her anxiety will increase. There are many different ways you can help your dog deal with her fear. Your number one goal is to teach Spot that you can be trusted to come back. One of the first exercises to practice is sit and stay. This will prepare your panicky pet for practice departures. Make Spot sit and stay while you move from one place to another. If she obeys, give her a treat. If she couldn’t stand it and didn’t stay, try it again for a shorter time and distance. Once you find something that works, even if it’s just moving from the living room to the dining room, you can slowly increase the time and distance.

    The next step is to change your habits. Think about your routine. Do you do the same things every time you walk out the door? Kissing your spouse, grabbing your bag, closing your briefcase, or even picking up your keys can tell Spot that you’re leaving. She associates your preparations to leave with her destructive behavior. Your goal is to change your pattern, teaching her new cues that let her know that you’re always coming back and help disassociate her learned, destructive behavior from your absence. Do something unusual and different from your normal routine: turn on the radio or television, or give Spot a treat. There are many toys and treats designed to entertain your pet while you’re out. A Kong toy stuffed with food is a popular option–she will spend many distracted hours working to get the food out.

    New cue review
    Begin using your new cue when you start doing practice departures. The key here is to take baby steps. When you first give Spot the new cue, leave the house for just a minute or two–a time short enough that you know Spot will be all right. When you come back, avoid a big fuss and simply go about your business. The expectation of a big to-do when you come home only increases her anxiety level. The principle behind practice departures is the same as that of sit and stay; you’re teaching Spot that when you leave you will come back. Slowly, you will increase her confidence in you and in herself. Continue to practice your departures all day long for increasingly longer amounts of time. Stay away a couple of minutes longer each time, but remember to take it slow. If Spot becomes upset at a certain point, cut the time in half and be patient. For example, if Spot acts out after two hours, then decrease the time to one hour and work your way back up from there. Repeat the cycle over and over again, until Spot is confident that you will always return.

    Ideally you will be able to spend at least a week gradually easing Spot into a new level of self-confidence. If you don’t have that much time, try to begin early on a Friday evening and continue the practice departures throughout the weekend. Clomicalm(R), a new anxiety drug from Novartis, can help calm your anxious pup if you don’t have enough consecutive hours to work on correcting Spot’s behavior. Clomicalm is not a sedative; instead, it is designed especially for dogs with separation anxiety. Dogs take a daily dose to relieve some of their anxiety, making it easier for them to learn new, better behavior. Once the new behavior is learned, the medication can be discontinued. As with any drug, be sure to visit your veterinarian to ensure the medication is appropriate for your specific pet.

    Another strategy to help you deal with the problem is to take Spot out for a good walk before you leave the house. Not only will you spend some quality time together, it will also help tucker her out, making it more likely she will spend her time away from you sleeping. Another benefit to the long walk is that once Spot sees the pattern, she will have something to look forward to when you leave. And the exercise will be great for both of you.

    With these tools, you should be well on your way to boosting Spot’s self-confidence. With enough time and patience you can teach Spot that you love her just as much as she loves you. Eventually she will realize that you won’t leave her, and that destroying your house may not be the best way to tell you she misses you. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions, or if the problem persists, ask your veterinarian to recommend a behavior specialist. Chances are both you and your dog will benefit from some one-on-one guidance. Together, you can transform her anxious love and your tattered home into a secure peace you both can enjoy.

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Exotic Pet Care

  • Here at Animal Care Centers we see all animals great or small! We have certain Doctors who will see pocket pets, reptiles, and even our avian friends. If you have a small pet that needs medical attention please feel free to call us and we can help you set up an appointment.

Parasite Control

  • There is no subtle way to say this. To you, your pet is a family member. To a parasite, your pet is food. Parasites like fleas, ticks and heartworm-carrying mosquitos can carry numerous diseases that can seriously harm your pet. Here at Animal Care Center we offer a top of the line selection to help take care of these parasites and to keep you and your pet safe!

Nutrition Counseling and Premium Pet Diets

  • Here at Animal Care Center we recognize the importance that nutrition plays in the overall health and happiness of our pets. Nutritional evaluations and recommendations are included as a key component of our preventative health care protocols. We strive to be a valuable resource of nutritional information and advice for our clients. We believe that good nutrition is vital to your pet’s health. There are so many facets to nutrition so we understand how overwhelming it can be when you go pet food shopping. We are here to help you understand nutrition and what works best for your pet.

    Here are some nutritional topics that we can discuss with you during an appointment:

    • Understanding the basics of healthy nutrition and feeding practices
    • Reviewing life-stage nutritional recommendations for your pet
    • Determining the daily recommended caloric intake needs of your pet
    • Reading and understanding pet food labels


    If you have ever caught yourself walking up and down pet food aisles and not knowing what in the world is best suited for your pet’s diet, don’t fret you are not alone! We too have become frustrated by the vast number of pet foods, which are often misleading and confusing due to marketing schemes used to confuse owners. Also we are concerned about the number of pet food recalls that have occurred over the past several years. For this reason we are here to help you decide what diet works best for you and your pet. We can provide food lists that we can recommend to you or we also carry veterinarian prescription diets. Our prescription diets are specifically designed to help support the following aspects of our pets’ health:

    • Oral health/Dental Disease
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Kidney disease
    • Live disease
    • Feline Hyperthyroidism
    • Gastrointestinal disease
    • Urinary tract disease, including urinary stones
    • Joint Disease
    • Food allergies
    • Skin disease
    • Heart disease

Geriatric Care and Wellness Programs

  • We care for your pet that has been in your family’s life! As our pets age they have special health needs that may require more attention and care then younger pets. We do recommend twice-a-year wellness examinations. These are important in order to detect or treat medical problems that may arise. A baseline senior wellness exam should be performed so it can be used as a benchmark for measuring changes in your pet. This exam includes a complete physical exam, oral and rectal examination and recording of body weight and body condition. Our Dr. also examines your pet’s ears, eyes, and various internal organs. Some laboratory work may be done, including a complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal exam, and perhaps endocrine blood tests and other diagnostic tools used to detect health baselines or issues.

Travel Certificates and Health Certificates

  • Domestic and International Health Certificates (USDA accredited) – Traveling with your pet? No problem…We can help! There are a number of travel regulations and requirements that exist and vary according to different airlines and destinations. Always make sure you do the proper research before your appointment to determine what is necessary for your unique travel needs. And if there is something you are not sure of you can always give a call! We are always here to help!

Microchip/Pet Identification

  • Microchipping can save your pet’s life. 1 out of 3 pets become lost in their lifetime. According to the humane society, only about 15% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats ever find their way back home. Almost 4 million pets are euthanized each year! This includes lost pets whose owners were not found in time. Microchips are an easy and inexpensive way to ensure your pet doesn’t become a statistic.

In-House Pharmacy

  • Our full In-House Pharmacy allows us to fill our patients’ prescriptions and quickly handle pet emergency needs.

Endocrinology (hormones)

  • Our doctors are dedicated to diagnosing and treating dogs and cats with a variety of endocrine (hormonal) diseases, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease. The endocrine system is an intricate arrangement of many hormones and control mechanisms. This complex system can fail in many places. Endocrine disorders are both multitudinous and often difficult to treat. However, our doctors here have seen numerous cases and have proper diagnostic tools to effectively diagnose and treat these disorders. If your dog or cat has an endocrine problem or you believe may have an issue please do not hesitate to call us.

Dermatology & Allergy Services

  • We provide complete medical care for skin conditions including serum allergy testing (QVC) and a full line of veterinary skin care products and diets. Companion animals can suffer from many of the same skin conditions that we do. Whether it be allergies, parasites, or a skin infection, our doctors are able to identify, diagnose and treat a wide variety of skin conditions.

Ophthalmology & Tonometry

  • This is the examination and treatment of conditions of the eye. (Tonometry defines the use of a specialized instrument to measure intraocular pressure which is vital in the detection of Glaucoma in our pets.) Animal Care Centers recognizes the importance of your pet’s eyesight and takes great measures to provide both care and client education.


  • Getting a diagnosis of cancer for your beloved pet can be a very devastating and stressful time. We understand and are here to help both you and your pet. Our highly skilled and experienced doctors are trained to deliver compassionate care using treatment options to help improve the quality and duration of your pet’s life.


  • Animal Care Centers provides comprehensive treatments for conditions of the heart. Through the use of such diagnostic tools as an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram (scheduled with our participating mobile specialists) and blood pressure monitoring, we are able to accurately diagnose and successfully treat our patients. We also have an in-house pharmacy for cardiac medications.

Laser Therapy

  • We have class IV Laser Therapy which is used to help relieve chronic pain and accelerates your pets healing and rehabilitation time following surgery. Laser Therapy can also be effectively used for on-going treatment of other chronic joint and muscle pains. We have seen positive results in our senior patients and in those who are challenged by arthritis. Read more about Pet Laser Therapy

Pain Management

  • Before, during, and after is our belief here at Animal Care Centers! We believe advanced medical protocols for the relief of acute and chronic patient pain is vital in our field! Not only do we keep our patients pain free during routine or specialized surgery but we also strive to keep our non-surgical patients who have chronic pain as pain alleviated as possible!

Dental Care & Dental Digital Radiology

  • Here at Animal Care Centers we provide complete dental services for your pet which includes full cleaning, polishing and dental radiographs (x-rays). We also provide before and after pictures to each client.

Anesthesia (including Propofol and Isoflurane)

  • We provide complete anesthetic monitoring which includes pulsoximetry, capnometry, blood pressure, EKG, core body temperature, respiration monitors and ventilator. We also provide warm intravenous fluids during surgery.


  • We can send certain diagnostic procedures via telephone or computer. This is a wonderful tool when needing vital tests done as soon as possible. This includes EKGs and Lab Work.


  • Performed in-hospital by a Board Certified Ultrasonographer. Ultrasound plays a dynamic role in determining treatment plans in special cases.

Digital Radiography

  • We have state-of-the-art Direct Digital Radiography allowing for quick and enhanced-image diagnostics.

Patient Care

  • We provide soft bedding, warm IV fluids and therapeutic warm blankets for surgical and medical patients. We also provide our patients with our undivided attention and tender care.

Critical Care and Emergency Services

  • We provide intensive advanced care and treatments for most critical need patients and emergencies. For extreme cases that require highly specialized treatments we can offer stabilizing care until transferred to a specialist. We also have in hospital oxygen cages that are vital in emergency situations.

Full In-House Lab

  • In our laboratory we can run blood work quickly for emergencies or as a routine measure. Blood work that we can run in house includes: complete blood count (CBC) with manual and LaserCyte hematology testing, chemistry profiles, electrolytes, urinalysis, fecal analysis, cytology, heartworm/erhlichia/anaplasma/lyme disease testing, feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus snap tests, and other in house diagnostic snap tests.