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Many of us will be dealing with separation anxiety in our pets in the months ahead. After Stay at Home Orders, social isolation, and working from home, most of us are ready to get back to (a type of) normal. This includes going back to the office or school once more. For our pet companions, they’ve enjoyed our 24/7 attention and presence in the home. Their normal walks, pats, playtimes, and attention have increased as pet owners have resigned themselves to being home more.

New puppies will especially have it hard. We’ve seen record numbers of puppies adopted during the COVID lockdown and many haven’t had the normal socialization opportunities. They have been isolated with their families and may have a tough time adjusting to suddenly being alone all day.

Now that we are going back to work/school, many pets are experiencing something strange. If your pet is clingy or anxious when you leave, you’re not alone. Separation anxiety in pets after the pandemic is common. The team at Westarbor Animal Hospital wants to help you and your pet with the transition.

What Is Separation Anxiety in Pets?

Separation anxiety in pets is a condition that comes from a fear of being alone, or separated from the pet owner or loved one. This anxiety is rooted in many factors, some of which include genetics, socialization (or its lack), trauma in early development, and conditioning. Anxiety in pets can be triggered by an event, such as when a child goes back to school after being at home all summer, or when we return to work after COVID-19.

Symptoms of separation anxiety in pets include:

  • Destructive behaviors, like chewing and digging
  • Pacing
  • Panting excessively
  • Trembling
  • Attempts to escape
  • Lack of appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Urinating and defecating in the home
  • Hiding

This anxiety can lead to phobia, aggression, and other more serious behavioral problems when left untreated.

How to Ease the Fear of Separation Anxiety

The first thing to know about separation anxiety is whether your pet is prone to it. In the past, if your pet has had problems with clinginess and discomfort when they are away from you, they are more likely to experience it now when you return to the old routine. Any pet can experience anxiety due to sudden change, though.

To prevent anxiety and fear, follow some of these recommendations.

  1. Ease your pet into time spent alone. Pets fear change and disruption in routine. Make it easier for them by starting early, leaving your pet for a few hours at a time and gauging their reaction. Gradual time spent alone can make for a calmer pet.
  2. Give your pet something to do. A bored pet is going to notice your leaving more than an occupied one. Buy new toys, a Kong filled with something yummy, challenging treat dispensing puzzles, or something similar for them to do.
  3. Make sure they get enough exercise. Daily walks and playtime are essential to the physical and behavioral health of your pet. Allot enough time before you go to work and when you return for a game of Frisbee in the backyard or feather chase inside, or a nice walk to the park.
  4. Find socialization opportunities for your puppy. Find ways to socialize your puppy at home, use these tips, or find a local daycare or puppy playschool to help socialize your puppy before you have to be gone.
  5. Use pheromone sprays and calming treats. Some pets feel more at ease through the use of one of the calming sprays for dogs or Feliway pheromone spray for cats, and treats that calm anxiety in pets.
  6. Stick to a routine. Pets expect to eat, sleep, walk, and do other daily living activities at certain times. This schedule helps them to feel safe and secure. Stick to the schedule, even during holidays and weekends.
  7. Keep calm and carry on. The thing that worries pets most is when their people are also upset and stressed. Keep your goodbyes cheerful and upbeat and downplay the excitement when you return in the evening. Remaining calm and collected during the transition helps your pet also stay relaxed.

If you and your family will be away from the house for long periods of the day, you may wish to hire a pet sitter or dog walker for the day, especially at first. This break in the doldrums alleviates excess energy and stress, while giving your pet the attention and exercise needed for their total well-being.

Is Your Pet Stressed?

Please call the team at Westarbor. We can help get to the bottom of your pet’s anxiety, rule out any underlying medical issues, and provide a treatment plan for pet anxiety. Change is hard for all of us, but there’s no reason why your best fur friend should struggle. We are here for them — and you!

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