August 5, 2021
How Separation Anxiety Affects Your Pet And What You Can Do About It
As the world slowly reopens, your kids head back to school, and you head back to the office, your pets may be spending significantly more time home alone. This change in day-to-day routine could lead to your pet developing separation anxiety.
Here’s how to help your pet prepare for changes to their routine, spot the signs of separation anxiety, and treat it if it arises.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Just like humans, our pets are creatures of habit. They get used to eating, sleeping, playing, socializing, and exercising at specific times of the day. Another big part of your pet’s routine is the time they spend with YOU. During a time when many people are working, schooling, and entertaining themselves at home, our pets grew accustomed to having us around consistently. So, what happens when that changes?
Separation anxiety results from a dramatic change in your pet’s environment or day-to-day routine; this could include moving to a new home, loss of a family member, or being left alone for the first time. It’s nice to know your pet likes having you around, but their attachment to you could cause them immense stress when you aren’t present. You may notice they become agitated when you begin your routine to leave home, or they may even try to prevent you from leaving.
What To Look For
With severe separation anxiety, your pet will start displaying symptoms within minutes of your departure. Other pets may display less severe symptoms throughout the day.
Barking and or howling. These are the most common symptom of separation anxiety and could last minutes or hours.
General destruction. This could mean chewing furniture, clothing, door frame, or other household objects. It could also mean digging at doors as an attempt to get to you. These behaviors could result in potential self-injury.
Using the bathroom, indoors. If your pet is consistently urinating or defecating inside ONLY when left alone, it’s most likely due to separation anxiety.
Pacing. If your pet doesn’t typically pace when you are around, you can be sure this is a symptom of separation anxiety.
Escaping. By far the most alarming potential symptom of separation anxiety. When your pet attempts to get outside the house to find you, they could easily injure themselves, get lost, or cause damage to your home.
How To Prepare Your Pet For Changes
Similar to almost any other ailment your pet experiences, prevention is the most effective treatment for separation anxiety. Ahead of any major routine changes, help your pet transition by giving them increasing periods of alone time. You can provide them with a food-filled Kong or puzzle toy and leave a TV or calming music on during this time to associate being alone with positivity.
You can also help to reduce anxiety by desensitizing your pet to actions that indicate you are leaving your home. Picking up your keys, packing a bag, or putting your shoes on, may generally cause immediate anxiety for your pet. They may start pacing or giving you audial cues immediately. However, once you take your typical “leaving home” actions, go about your day as you typically would. Once your pet realizes that these actions don’t always mean alone time, they’ll gradually become less distressed when you take them.
Overcoming Separation Anxiety
If your pet is exhibiting moderate to severe symptoms of separation anxiety there are a few steps you can take to help alleviate or reduce them.
Create A Safe Space. Similar to pets who have thunder anxiety, pets with separation anxiety can be comforted by a safe, reliable space that will limit distractions. Make sure to fill it with your pet’s favorite toys, beds, and plenty of water. Get your pet used to the space before a transition period.
Work It Out. Exercise is key to maintaining both physical and mental health. Providing your pet with enough physical stimulation can go a long way to helping them relax. Give your cat an extended play session or take your dog for a long walk before leaving for the day. The exercise will help them burn off energy and encourage relaxation.
Have Someone Visit. Hiring a pet care professional or a friend to provide daily visits. Make sure your pet is comfortable with them before regular visits begin. Having someone come by to spend time with your pet, take them for a walk, or let them outside will break up your pet’s day and provide quality interaction or exercise.
Visit Your Vet. If your pet is experiencing intense separation anxiety, pay a visit to your vet to rule out any other potential medical issues. Your vet may also be able to provide a supplement to help calm your pet, or if necessary, medication.
Hire A Behaviorist. If you’ve exhausted all other options it may be time to call an animal behaviorist. An animal behaviorist’s professional approach will focus on treating your pet’s separation anxiety at its root and help alter their behavior for long-term success.
Separation anxiety is difficult for both pet and their owners, so you should never scold or punish your pets for actions related to separation anxiety. It’s completely normal for changes to your pet’s day-to-day routine to cause a certain amount of anxiety. Be patient with your pet, and make sure you are doing everything you can to help alleviate the symptoms of separation anxiety.
Consider having a Hidden Fence from DogWatch® installed to allow your pet the freedom to safely access your yard when they need to and rearranging your home in a way that is beneficial to soothe your pet’s anxiety. Staying ahead of changes will make a world of difference for them.