After the Stay at Home Order: How to Prevent Pet Separation Anxiety

If your pet is glued to your side each moment or has behavioral issues every time you leave them, you may have a “velcro pet”. Pets who are overly attached to their owners sometimes have key symptoms of separation anxiety when they are left alone. But now that we’ve been at home for the past several weeks, even pets who are fairly independent might have trouble with the return to work adjustment.

This is why the team at Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital is here with an overview of pet separation anxiety and what you can do to minimize your pet’s risk of developing it.

Life After the Quarantine

If you are like most Americans, the urge to get out of the house is high after weeks of self-isolating. Your four-legged friend, on the other hand, may have enjoyed all this extra cuddle and play time with you being there with them 24/7. This is why we can expect to see more cases of separation anxiety as everyone returns to work and daily life activities.

This is because pets are hardwired to routine, and find comfort and safety in knowing what to expect each day. Dogs are especially sensitive to your presence because they are pack animals and thrive in being close to their pack mates. When you go to work or the kids go to school, it is a big change for them that sometimes leads to changes in behavior.

What Is Pet Separation Anxiety?

Pet separation anxiety is the inability to cope with the absence of the pet owner or other family members. This disorder is often linked to dogs who have been undersocialized, while there is also a genetic link to the separation anxiety, as certain breeds may be more susceptible. 

Symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Marking/accidents 
  • Howling or other vocalization
  • Excessive barking
  • Scratching at doors and gates
  • Attempts  to escape
  • Biting at skin and paws
  • Destroying furniture or other items
  • Phobia
  • Depression

These behaviors can obviously be problematic to you and your pet. If your pet is exhibiting these more serious forms of anxiety, please call us for a consultation and exam.

Prevention

If you are going back to work or have already started back on the normal routine, there are ways you can help your pet feel less anxious about the changes occurring.

  1. Keep a consistent routine. Whatever the new schedule is, start sticking to it as soon as you can, even before you begin working outside the home. Maintain the same feeding time, play and exercise time, and so on throughout the week, including weekends, to help alleviate some of your pet’s anxiety.
  2. Give your pet something to do. Provide lots of toys and treat dispensing puzzles, among other mental and physical enrichment activities. Pets love to watch birds and other animals pass by, so open a curtain or two for their visual enrichment. Many challenging and interactive games can be purchased online or at pet stores. Be creative and add some new toys when your pet gets bored with the old.
  3. Enlist help. When you must work long hours, hire a pet sitter to come by and exercise your pet. Dog walkers are a great benefit when you work long days, giving your pet extra attention and exercise.

Would you like additional information on pet separation anxiety? Please contact our team and we can discuss some options in keeping your pet happy and healthy, even during times of change.