Pets are ruled by routine because it makes them feel safe and secure. They thrive when they get meals at the same time, daily walks during the regular morning or evening hours, and snuggles (all the time).
Because of the stay-at-home order, your pet happily adjusted to a new way of life, which included having their people around more often and, most likely, on a more pet-centric routine. Now that we have gone back to work (or getting ready to), we are preparing for the change, but may not consider this impact on our pets.
Some pet owners have already felt the effects of pet separation anxiety in their households. This is why the team at Clairmont Animal Hospital wants to help you ready your pet for the transition.
What Is Pet Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is an intense disliking of being left alone. Children can develop this condition, as well as pets.
Your pet may become stressed or even panic any time you leave the house, especially on those first long stretches of time alone. This anxiety can happen in both cats and dogs, but is more likely to occur with dogs who are definite pack animals, as they rely on others for their sense of safety and comfort.
Without a healthy dose of early training and socialization, some dogs struggle with this condition their entire life.
Symptoms related to separation anxiety include:
- Chronic barking
- Scratching furniture
- Self-mutilation, such as biting at skin
- Destroying things around the home
- Lack of appetite
- Marking or accidents in the home
- Attempts to escape
As you can see, pet separation anxiety can become a serious risk for your pet’s health. Without intervention, and sometimes even the use of medication, your pet’s wellbeing.
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Pets
Discouraging separation anxiety in your pet after COVID-19 is the same as what you would do to prevent the condition in the first place.
Dogs who have never been socialized are at greater risk, especially if they have attachment issues to you or another family member. The other thing to note is to have your pet examined for any health problems that may be causing or exacerbating the symptoms.
Here are some steps to dissuade separation anxiety in your furry one.
- Start getting them used to the new schedule now. If you haven’t started back to work, ease your pet into the new routine by leaving the home more and more each day. Go run errands without them, or plan a day trip and allow your pet to gradually get the idea that your being away isn’t permanent.
- Feed, play with, and exercise your pet at about the same time each day. If you have to get up earlier and therefore feed your pet at a different time, begin now. Stick with the same walking and feeding schedule, even if you have a day off or on the weekends. Routine is everything to a pet.
- Give your pet distractions. Your pet should be given an ample amount of mental enrichment puzzles, games, and toys. Cats thrive when they have their own places to climb like a cat tree. New and exciting toys can help keep your pet occupied during the day, as well as some fun chew toys, like a frozen Kong filled with some peanut butter.
- Make use of a crate or separate, special area of the home, just for your pet. Many pets are less fearful when they have a cozy little “den” of their own. Add plenty of blankets, treats, and toys to entice your pet.
- Use rewards when you leave. Just as you will use enrichment activities, offer your pet a small treat when you are about to leave. This little incentive can make the leaving a little less painful.
- Downplay the excitement upon returning. Instead of responding to your pet’s intense enthusiasm when you return home, stay calm. Go about the home errands, feed your pup, and keep a calm demeanor. This helps your pet think that your leaving and coming back is something normal and routine.
We hope these suggestions help with your little one, while keeping them from developing separation anxiety. Some pets are more clingy than others or have a greater risk of the condition.
Talk to us about your pet’s fears and anxieties, so we can get them the treatment they need.