We’ve all been looking for some strategic coping mechanisms this year. For some, cooking, reading, writing letters, or working on home improvement projects took over as a means to get through the quarantine orders. For pet owners, spending quality time with their furry, fluffy, scaled, or feathered friends became even more important.
All this extra affection and attention sure hasn’t been lost on pets, but will quickly vanish as people return to work. After all these weeks in deep comfort and companionship, is pet separation anxiety going to become part of a new normal?
The In’s and Out’s of Pet Separation Anxiety
Pet separation anxiety is characterized by a profound fear of solitude. Symptoms occur when a pet is upset by the imminent departure of their human and the unknown quantity of time apart.
Depending on the level of fear and stress, symptoms can vary in intensity but often include the following:
- Intense clinginess
- Increased vocalizations
- Blocking the exit
- Aggression or destructive behaviors (chewing, scratching, digging, etc.)
- Soiling inside the house
- Excessive self-grooming
Pet separation anxiety symptoms rarely improve without direct compassionate intervention. In fact, they may get worse over time, eventually requiring behavioral modification training and/or prescription medication.
Planning Ahead for Separation Anxiety in Pets
It may be a long time until we reach a level of normalcy previously enjoyed. You may not be working five 8-hour shifts a week outside the home yet, but eventually a full time schedule may loom large.
Chances are, your pet has grown deeply accustomed to your daily routine. They know exactly when they can expect your attention, affection, meals, exercise breaks, and more. To prevent pet separation anxiety, we recommend the following strategies:
- Crate train your pet so they know they have a calming, reassuring location to retreat to when they feel anxious or afraid.
- Start leaving your pet alone for short periods of time. Only increase the time apart when your pet demonstrates confidence and comfort in your absence. Before you know it, you’ll inspire your pet to stay calm and happy for up to however many hours necessary (but don’t overdo it at first, start slow and work up to 3-4 hours, then 5-6, if able).
- When you return home, stay neutral. Making a big deal about your reunion sends the wrong message to your pet and may trigger intense symptoms of pet separation anxiety.
- Leave safe toys for them to play with while alone, or provide food puzzles to keep their mind occupied. Rotate toys regularly to prevent boredom.
- Give them a good workout before you leave in the morning to burn off extra energy. A tired pet is a happy one. Exercise or play when you return home.
- If your pet simply cannot abide by separation from you, hire a dog walker or pet sitter to keep them company or exercise them during your absence. When things open up a bit more you may want to sign them up for doggie daycare or playdates.
True Care Veterinary Care Can Help!
It may not be easy at first, but with a healthy combination of patience, understanding, encouragement, and love, pet separation anxiety doesn’t have to take over the household.
Dr. Tullio has always treated our dogs with great knowledge‚ care‚ and compassion‚ and we have grown to know him quite well. We have been so completely impressed with Dr. Tullio’s consistent excellence in care and services that we wanted to share our experience with others. We are pleased to recommend as the place to go for both quality treatment and compassionate care for your furry family members.
When my parents’ dog Kya died very suddenly a few years ago‚ their regular vet was not at work that day. But thankfully‚ Dr. Tullio was and treated my parents and their dog as if he was their doctor for the past 15 years—doing everything he could to try and revive Kya and by being so compassionate to my parents in the waiting room after having to deliver the sad news. We truly can’t say enough nice things about Dr. Tullio and can’t wait for him to open his new facility! Thank you.
—Lori Forrest & Bob Leahy
Doctor Tullio is a kind, caring gentleman who has cared for my cocker spaniels for many years now. He has always been helpful‚ honest‚ and understanding with my pets and me. He is a man I trust completely and have and do refer others to him. Any pet owner can feel safe and secure in trusting their beloved pets to his skilled hands.
—Margaret Rowe‚ Howell‚ NJ
Molly and Oscar have been patients of Dr. Tullio for several years. I have been very pleased with his care‚ his expertise‚ and his understanding with my two Wheatens. Dr. Tullio has been quick to diagnose any issues and remedy all of the problems we’ve had. I look forward to many more years working with Dr. Tullio. I wish him well in his venture.