Destructive Behavior of Dogs and Cats

One of the most common reasons for euthanasia in dogs and cats is behavior that leads to destruction or damage of the house and/or furnishings. It is a decision that is both difficult and painful for the owner, who has not been able to solve the problem and knows that the chance of finding a new owner who would be willing to work with a destructive pet is very small.

Behavior modification using techniques that are based on classical and operant conditioning has long been the approach to correcting inappropriate behaviors. These techniques require a considerable amount of understanding, time, and patience on the part of the owner of the pet. The problem with this is that many of these problems occur in homes where time is a precious resource.

Fortunately, there have been some excellent results from studies involving drugs that have positive effects on our pets’ moods. These medications can greatly improve the chance of success of the behavior modification techniques by placing the dog or cat in a state of mind in which they can learn faster and have fewer setbacks. The medications are not a replacement for teaching new behaviors; they only help remove the mental blocks that slow down or inhibit learning.

A major block is the distressful mental state associated with separation anxiety and panic attacks. These two conditions are improved by medications that increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. In dogs, the two drugs that have been approved for use in helping with these disorders are Clomicalm and Reconcile. In cats, Clomicalm has been found to be extremely successful in managing cases of inappropriate urination.

Separation anxiety is an extremely painful mental state of social animals that occurs when they sense that they have been abandoned or separated from their group. In dogs, the problem usually manifests itself when the owner goes to work. While alone, the dog suffering from this problem seeks to escape the confines of the home and/or release its anxiety by destroying parts of the house or items within the house.

Clomicalm and Reconcile can quiet this anxiety to a great extent, sometimes eliminating it altogether. Without the constant anxiety and resulting destruction, the owners gain an opportunity to work with the behavioral training that has the best chance of offering a long term solution. It is important to understand that these drugs are not substitutes for behavioral modification and must be used in conjunction with training.

By far and away the most common destructive behavior of cats is urinating outside of the litter box on clothes, carpets, walls and furniture. The first step in solving this problem is to have your cat evaluated for diseases that can lead to this behavior. If no physical condition is found by your veterinarian, behavioral concerns must then be addressed.

Most of the behavioral cases of inappropriate urination are associated with fear or distress. Often the behavior begins when an outside cat begins to haunt and mark the exterior of the house or a new cat is brought into the home. The presence of wild animals, including raccoons moving into attics, can also lead to marking behavior. The cat feels threatened and resorts to doing all it can to protect itself and its territory.

Clomicalm has been shown to have up to a 90% success rate in minimizing and/or eliminating inappropriate urination of cats. For veterinarians and owners alike, this is great news. Adding litter boxes, trying new litter, thoroughly cleaning rugs and carpets, and appropriately using pheromone sprays and diffusers should not be abandoned. Many of these techniques may be all that is necessary to change this aggravating and odiferous behavior. However, if these fail we now have a great backup.

Please remember that, while Clomicalm and Reconcile can help allow dogs and cats to become better learners, it is still our task to teach our pets new behaviors to replace those behaviors we consider unacceptable.

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Filed under Behavior, Ruminations

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