How To Manage Pet Separation Anxiety
The pandemic might not have been the best experience for us humans, but for our pets it was paradise! Their families would spend all day, every day at home with them, but since we’ve all started heading back to the office, our clingy fur-babies may start to suffer with us away more often. This article will help you combat and manage your pet’s separation anxiety.
What Is Pet Separation Anxiety?
You may be asking yourself “why is my dog so destructive?” or “why is my cat going crazy?” whenever you return home from work. Sometimes, this may be the result of a pet that needs to be trained just simply misbehaving but in other cases it may be a result of pet separation anxiety. Signs of pet separation anxiety could include the following:
1 )Destruction of furniture, doors or even windows:
Is your dog chewing on your coffee table or couch cushions, or is your cat scratching your chairs or knocking over valuables?
2) Urinating or defecating everywhere:
Your dog may be going to the toilet inside even if they have access to the outdoors or is toilet trained, or your cat may be avoiding using their litter box in favor of using your bed instead.
3) Excessive barking, howling or meowing:
Your dog may be sitting at the front door howling, or your cat may be running around the house meowing non-stop. This may sometimes also lead to neighbors complaining too.
4) Excessive panting:
Your cat or dog may be breathing heavily with their mouths open and tongues out, which may either indicate severe stress, or overheating.
5) Trying to escape:
Either your cat is jumping against doors or your dog is trying to destroy them in an attempt to get out. This can be dangerous if a window is broken and your pet gets injured.
If your pet does not have any underlying dental issues, then excessive drooling may be indicative of pet anxiety.
Pets are also capable of self-harm. Whether through excessive chewing of their paws, either resulting in hotspots or infections, or excessive licking resulting in fur loss.
8) Stress-Related hair loss:
This could be either a hair loss that happens on its own, or either from your pet pulling it out, or overly-licking in one concentrated area.
9) Signs of severe distress:
Your cat or dog is constantly unsettled, has trouble relaxing, and is always pacing around your home either crying or meowing.
What Causes Pet Separation Anxiety?
There is no one trigger that causes separation anxiety in our pets. In fact there may be multiple influences that may lead to them developing separation anxiety.
Pet separation anxiety is often more likely to be prevalent in pets that have been rescued due to previous abandonment. Similar to PTSD. It may also happen if that pet has been moved around between foster homes or surrendered more than once by different families. This can lead to negative psychological effects on the rescue animal, and may trigger anxiety attacks when left alone, due to fear of being abandoned once again.
Moving can also factor towards pet separation anxiety. Especially between countries. When pets are being relocated from one country to another, they are usually separated from their families for a certain period of time. Either due to them having to remain in quarantine for some time, or taking different flights or routes towards the destination. Being separated from their family, then put on a flight and ending up in a strange new land with strange people around them may have some lasting effects, and lead to separation anxiety triggers whenever furniture is moved around or suitcases are being packed.
The same can be said for families going on vacations. Whilst some pet parents opt for a stay-in pet sitter so that the pets aren’t out of their home environment, some pet parents will also opt for kennel boarding for their pets. For nervous pets this may cause them to panic and act out, even when in a kennel. Pets that remain at home with a house sitter may also act out as a result of being separated from their family.
How To Manage Pet Separation Anxiety:
If your pet is suffering from separation anxiety, or anxiety in general, it may be worth considering whether or not they’re receiving enough enrichment to stimulate them mentally.
For dogs, there are many ways to provide them enrichment. Spending more time with them and being affectionate before and after leaving for work, or outings may help them feel more secure when left alone. Taking them on longer walks will not only benefit their health mentally and physically, but yours as well. Teaching them new tricks or taking time to discipline them can also have a positive effect on their mental health and how they behave when left alone at home. There are also a range of puzzle and interactive toys ideal for providing your dogs with the necessary enrichment they require. There are also treats for dogs containing natural calming ingredients that can also be used during training sessions. We also provide a small range of natural calming aids that can be applied either as a spot on pipette, a collar or just an environmental spray. Dogs also pick up on behavior patterns, especially when you leave the house. Start by taking short trips outside of the house, like to the grocery store, but change your routine a bit before leaving the house. You could also recreate that routine but without actually leaving the house. It may take your dog some time to adjust, but eventually they won’t associate something like putting on your shoes or moving your keys to you leaving, and don't pre-panic as a result.
Cats also require enrichment in their lives to improve their mental health, and as a result reduce their anxiety. In fact, dogs aren’t the only pets that can be trained or taught tricks. Cats are actually capable of learning to play fetch and can be taught to go on walks. There are harnesses and leashes specifically designed for taking your cat for a walk. Harness training your cat is a great way to begin providing them with enrichment. Simply start by having them wear the harness around the house during the day, and once they are, slowly start walking them around the house on the leash until they’re used to it. Indoor cats can get great exercise being taken for walks and it may help to reduce their anxiety. Consider also using an interactive puzzle feeder when giving your cat their meals. This encourages mental stimulation and weight loss, improving their mental health. Just as there are for dogs, there are also a variety of cat calming aids available.
Sometimes, a new companion for your pet may be needed, should their social experience with other animals allow it. Having another cat or dog around to keep your pet company, will help them feel less lonely throughout the day, and also provide them with a friend to play with!
Another attempt you could consider is giving your pet treats before you leave and when you return. By doing so, you are associating an experience that they see as negative with something positive. This may help lessen the negative feelings of being left alone.
If it’s within your price range, you could also consider pet daycare facilities. There are a number to choose from within Dubai itself, and some socialization with other animals will do wonders for your pet’s mental health!
In a few cases of severe separation anxiety, sometimes professional help may be in order. There are a number of training facilities in the UAE that specialize in aiding pets through trauma and anxiety, and lessen the severity of the effects. You may also need to consult your veterinarian if your pet has any serious self-sustained injuries or malnutrition as a result of their anxiety, as they may require special medication or medicated food as part of their treatment.
Overall, pets, like humans, experience anxiety and stress that can deteriorate their mental health so it’s up to us as their protectors and loving family members to ensure that not only their physical needs are taken care of, but their mental needs as well. Take some extra time out throughout your day to dedicate towards playing with them, spending time with them and providing them with the affection, care and love that they deserve!