With the dawn of social media and the ability to keep tabs of everyone's lives within seconds, a phenomenon known as FOMO was born. We've all heard about it, but have you ever considered how much it affects our day-to-day lives? Furthermore, have you ever stopped to consider the ways that it can affect Fido? It turns out that no one is truly safe from the unpleasant feeling.
In this article, we'll cover the basics of FOMO, how specialists are urging people to take it seriously, and the number of ways that it can also affect your four-legged friend. As always, we'll also help pet parents understand how to recognize the signs of FOMO as well as how to prevent their dogs from experiencing it. Let's get to it!
What is FOMO?
FOMO is a term that many are familiar with, but it seemingly developed overnight. Before diving into the ways that FOMO may affect Fido, we wanted to trace the phenomenon back to its roots.
Dr. Dan Hernan, a marketing strategist, first identified the concept in 1996. He took four years of research and analysis before publishing the first academic paper covering the idea of FOMO in 2000 in The Journal of Brand Management.
Since then, the term took flight. Every day, people tease about "having FOMO," but Dr. Hernan (and many, many other professionals in the field) suggests that FOMO isn't exactly a laughing matter.
FOMO is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out. It may sound a bit silly at first, but studies are proving just how detrimental it can be.
The dictionary definition of FOMO is "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere." It also goes on to include the fact that many doctors are finding a correlation between FOMO and social media. The fact that we can constantly see what others are up to makes us feel like we aren't doing enough or having as much fun.
Fear of Missing Out: What Science Has To Say
The idea of FOMO has been studied by experts in psychology for nearly 20 years. The results are astounding... and troubling. Social media and the fear of missing out are so closely tied that many find it possible to find any sort of escaping FOMO and the associated stresses of whether or not individuals feel they are lacking in some way.
Speaking of stress, experts have made direct ties between FOMO and what many feel it directly causes: anxiety. That's right. In countless cases, the crippling fear of missing out quickly leads to the individual feeling extremely anxious. In turn, this anxiety then leads a slew of additional issues from trouble sleeping to losing focus at work. FOMO is at the root of it all, and it's affecting the vast majority of young people (commonly referred to as Millennials) in Western society. With so many young adults constantly attached to their phones and social media platforms, it is nearly impossible to escape the feeling of FOMO.
FOMO & Your Dog
However, FOMO doesn't only affect people. Believe it or not, your dog can suffer from FOMO too, and it's something that shouldn't be overlooked. Of course, your veterinarian isn't going to diagnose your dog with having "a bad case of FOMO." Instead, you'll likely find out that your dog has separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety in dogs is an anxiety disorder. It occurs when the owner leaves the house, even for very short amounts of time. If undiagnosed and untreated, separation anxiety can lead to a slew of issues for both your dog as well as your furniture. Therefore, it is important to be able to recognize whether your dog may experience FOMO and therefore, suffer from associated stress and anxiety.
Signs Your Dog Has FOMO
In order to prevent FOMO (also known as anxiety in dogs), pet parents must understand how to recognize it.
Vocalizing Their Distress... Nonstop
Constant barking and howling are telltale signs that your dog may be suffering from FOMO. Sure, your dog isn't patrolling your Instagram stories, but they still know that you are somewhere without them... and they don't like it. It is important for pet owners to recognize whether or not the barking and howling is persistent and not triggered by anything other than being left alone. If you live in an apartment complex, your neighbor is likely to be the one to confirm this unpleasant habit.
Urinating and Defecation
Another sign of FOMO is coming home to find your dog has had "accidents" all over your home or in their crate. Pet owners should observe whether the urinating and defecating is solely happening while they are away or if it is also happening while they are home. If your dog is having quite a few accidents while you are in the next room, chances are, they don't have separation anxiety, but could benefit from a couple obedience classes.
Destruction of the House
Additionally, coming home to find that your new couch is currently in pieces or your favorite rug is shredded may also be a sign that Fido had a FOMO experience while you were away. Chewing, digging, and overall destruction are common signs of separation anxiety.
Unfortunately, the damage doesn't stop at household items. The constant chewing and digging can cause self-inflicted harm such as broken teeth or torn paw pads. As you can see, managing your dog's FOMO is necessary for all.
Many pet parents will notice that their dog begins pacing through the house as soon as they sense their owner may be leaving soon. The pacing is often accompanied by panting and whining as if Fido is preparing for the worst... for you to be out in the world without them.
Attempting to Escape
Another sign of separation anxiety in dogs is constant escape attempts. Your dog may try to shimmy their way through your legs as you try to leave. Obviously, this is dangerous in countless ways, particularly if you live on a busy street.
As disgusting as it is, many dogs develop coprophagia in response to being stressed. Coprophagia is a habit in which the dog eats their own feces. Yes, you read that correctly. If the nasty habit is left unresolved it can lead to a number of health and gastrointestinal issues.
If your dog begins salivating excessively before your departure, they may be having a preemptive FOMO experience.
Additionally, separation also causes excessive licking in many dogs. This can be troublesome as excessive licking can quickly lead to the development of hot spots... a condition that you certainly want to avoid.
What Else The Symptoms Could Mean
It is important for dog owners to recognize that many of the aforementioned symptoms are those which are considered to be non-specific. In other words, while they are symptoms of separation anxiety, they are also symptoms of other ailments. For example, urinating in the house could be a sign that your dog may have a urinary tract issue. Pet owners must also recognize that separation is very different than your dog simply having behavioral issues that need to be addressed in a different manner.
What Causes Dog Anxiety
We know that your dog isn't jealous over your recent Snapchat stories or all of your new likes on your social media platform, so what exactly does cause FOMO in dogs? A good rule of thumb to follow is if something is stressing you out, it's likely affecting your dog as well. Dogs are highly sensitive creatures that recognize when there are stressors in people's lives.
Changes in the Household
Changes in your dog's typical day-to-day life can cause them a lot more stress than you may imagine. If another member of the household is added or leaves the home, separation anxiety can be triggered quite immediately. It is important for pet parents to realize that problems they may consider to be human issues can equally (if not more so) affect their dog as Fido likely has no idea why things have changed.
Additionally, if you recognize that your dog has been having issues with separation anxiety, consider if there have been any major changes that may affect their sense of security. For instance, moving homes can greatly affect your dog until they begin feeling comfortable in the new home.
Changes in Routine
Just like their owners, most dogs love routine. Knowing they are going to be walked and fed at specific times each day creates a feeling of safety. Therefore, if changes occur in your personal life (i.e. a new job with differing hours), it may affect your dog and lead to symptoms of separation anxiety.
Fear of Abandonment
Additionally, if you recently adopted a dog from a shelter or a place where new people and dogs consistently came and then went away, symptoms of separation anxiety are common and often difficult to alleviate. Even short outings without your new furbaby can cause them to experience a full-blown FOMO attack.
Additional Issues to Rule Out
While the aforementioned symptoms and causes are certainly those of separation anxiety, there are several other issues that pet owners should rule out before confirming a FOMO "diagnosis."
Urination Due to Excitement
While urinating (and defecating) while you are out of the house is a sign of separation anxiety, urinating from excitement you get home is not. Additionally, urinating out of submissiveness (i.e when being reprimanded) is also not a sign of separation anxiety.
Lack of Training
If your dog hasn't been properly house trained, they will likely show many signs that mimic those of separation anxiety. However, this is merely incomplete training, not an anxiety disorder.
Territorial marking is also not a sign of separation anxiety but rather your dog claiming what's theirs by peeing where they shouldn't. Pet owners will be able to spot the difference by the amount and location of the urine marking. Territorial marking will nearly always occur in small amounts in several different parts of the house.
Additionally, dogs often exhibit signs of separation anxiety when, in fact, they are just bored. Dogs crave physical and mental stimulation just like we do. If you, unfortunately, have to leave your dog for hours at a time, chances are, they are going to get pretty bored. How do they relieve the boredom? Perhaps by tearing through that new rug or having a howling competition with the neighbor's dog. Luckily, "curing" boredom is one of the easier issues to resolve. Pet owners may want to consider hiring a dog walker or looking into doggie daycare. We'll talk more about curing FOMO in a minute.
When you brought your new fluffy bundle of joy home, you may not have fulled realized how destructive those tiny teeth and nails could be... but oh, you'll quickly find out. Leaving a new puppy without supervision can be a recipe for disaster and will often show as signs of separation anxiety. However, the puppy is simply just being a puppy. Pet owners may want to consider crate training (once the puppy has been fully integrated into the household).
* A note on crate training
Crate training must be done in a very specific way. The crate should not be used as a place to go as a punishment. Rather, their crate should be seen as a safe haven. Start with small amounts of crate time before leaving your new furry family member in a crate for an entire workday. Again, you want them to enjoy spending time in their crate, not fear it.
Finally, your dog may be howling due to hearing an unfamiliar sound such as an ambulance or fire truck. These random occurrences are simply bouts of anxiety resulting from fear of the unknown, not separation anxiety.
How To Cure FOMO: Bones, Toys, and Other Remedies
If you recognize that your dog has been experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, first confirm that there aren't any other issues that may be causing the behavior. Once you feel confident that your pup is suffering from FOMO (and therefore anxiety), you'll want to make effective changes in order to cure it.
Bones or Interactive Toys
We've all heard the expression "an idle mind is the devil's playground." The saying suggests that when we have nothing going on to occupy our time, we can get ourselves into quite a bit of trouble. The same is true for our dogs. So how can owners help resolve the issue? Simply give your dog something to do. It may sound like common sense, but even giving your dog a bone or a chew toy can provide a task to complete that can last hours.
Additionally, we know that dogs require mental and physical stimulation. If they aren't getting enough of either, destruction will likely soon follow. Luckily, many companies have recognized the need for mental play time and have developed interactive toys that will keep your dog focused and busy while you are away.
Hire a Dog Walker
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety and you have to be away from home several hours every day, you may want to consider hiring a dog walker. Having someone give your dog physical exercise as well as some social interaction can prove to do wonders for a dog who suffers from FOMO.
Additionally, some dog owners see wonderful results from enrolling their pooch in a doggie daycare a few times a week. Doggie daycares provide ample amounts of physical and mental stimulation from both people as well as other dogs. It also can help with dogs who suffer from a bit of social anxiety. If you are away from home during most hours of the work week, you may want to look into whether there's a daycare facility that your dog might benefit from.
Again, dogs do well with structure and discipline. If you think your dog may be acting out due to behavioral issues rather than an anxiety disorder, we recommend looking into obedience classes. Of course, the earlier in the dog's life that the classes begin, the less bad habits there are to reverse. However, dog owners have found that regardless of age, all dogs show improvement with obedience training.
Experts recommend not making coming and going from the house into a big deal. Avoid celebrating your return as well as prolonging your exit. If your dog doesn't think that you leaving from time to time is a massive issue, they will be less likely to have a full-on FOMO meltdown.
Additionally, a little positive reinforcement can go a long way when it comes to an anxious dog. You may want to try giving Fido a little treat before you leave for the day in order to make your departure less upsetting for your pup.
Conventional Anti-Anxiety Medication: A Word of Caution
If for some reason the aforementioned suggestions don't do the trick, many vets will likely recommend trying a conventional anti-anxiety medication. While this may seem like an easy fix, we want to warn our readers that these drugs come with a slew of potential adverse reactions. Furthermore, there are alternatives that prove to be equally effective without the harsh side effects.
CBD Dog Treats
For less than $2 a day, pet owners can implement CBD oil into their dog's diet. The CBD oil comes in tincture form with an easy-to-use dropper that allows you to have total control over how much product your dog receives.
Picky eater on your hands? We understand. Some dogs solely enjoy meat-flavored goodies. Don't worry, we have you covered. Try our poultry-flavored Calming CBD chews. The small, soft morsels are also great for aging dogs who may have trouble with a crunchy treat.
Dogs & The Fear of Missing Out: Bottom Line
We are living in a time where everyone's "highlight reel" is constantly displayed on a screen that we are often glued to. The nonstop reminder of what everyone else is doing can truly be detrimental to our mental health. Studies continue to prove that FOMO is directly tied to feeling immense amounts of anxiety and worry. While our dogs (thankfully) don't receive constant social media updates on what you may or may not be doing without them, the same stress and anxiety very much exists and affects them just like it does people.
As doting pet parents, we must acknowledge that anxiety in dogs is a real issue that we may need to address. It can affect your canine in more ways than you may imagine. By recognizing that your dog may suffer from FOMO (also known as anxiety) you can effectively work to manage it and prevent future episodes.
FOMO in Dog Owners
Finally, we can all agree that sometimes our social media usage can be a bit out of control. Constantly checking our notifications and watching others' "stories" is certainly not an ideal way to pass the time. While it is nearly impossible to social proof your life, taking a healthy and necessary break from social media is incredibly important. FOMO may sound like a silly concept, but when we thoroughly examine what the perpetual fear of missing out can lead to, it is troubling... to say the least.