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Pet Insurance
10 Nov 2020

Tips if your pet is experiencing separation anxiety

After many months of spending more time at home with our pets, this has become their new normal. Regardless of whether your pets have been part of the family for some time prior to COVID-19, or if they joined the family during and have not known life any other way, changes to restrictions in the future will mark a sudden and impactful change in your pet’s life. 

Some pets will take this in their stride, while others will find it harder, and you may see some signs of separation related distress. 

So how can you help them cope well when spending time alone? 

1. Start to introduce some alone time

Now is the time to start spending some time away from your pets where possible. Techniques include:

  • Moving out of your pet’s direct line of sight.
  • Spending time apart in a different room.
  • Taking short trips outside whilst they remain at home.

It is important to slowly increase your distance and/or time away from your pets so they can become confident and relaxed with the gradual changes. 

2. Make sure the alone time is fun

Encourage your pets to have fun whilst they are home alone. We want to give them amazing things to do when they are not directly with you, to create positive associations. Food rewards suit most pets, so on departure consider giving your pet a food puzzle or chew toy filled with appropriate treats; they won’t even know you’re gone!

You can start to introduce some activities as well, such as hiding a chew toy filled with treats and teaching them to find it. You can start making the toy very easy to find, and gradually make it more difficult for them to locate it. This is more suitable for a single dog home, as there is a risk of fighting over the prize in a multi-dog home.

With cats, ensure they have multiple places to hide (e.g cardboard boxes) and climb; get creative and utilise the vertical space in your home.

3. Know the signs of distress and monitor for them

There are many ways that a pet who is home alone might show you that they are experiencing separation related distress. Depending on the severity, pets may:

  • Plant
  • Salivate
  • Pace around the house
  • Vocalise
  • Urinate or defecate inside
  • Perform destructive behaviours (e.g. scratching doors, chewing at bedding)

Video monitoring is a great way for you to see exactly what your pet gets up to and how they are coping when they are alone. There are many options on the market for this; you can purchase and install a pet camera that you can monitor remotely, or look for a dog monitoring app where no hardware is needed to be purchased, but may require two devices.

4. Seek Veterinary help

The signs of distress above can also be attributed to medical problems and other causes of anxiety. First thing to do if you are seeing these signs with your pet is to consult your Vet. Underlying medical problems need to be treated, and for severe anxiety - medication and supplements may be prescribed in addition to a behavioural plan.

Written by Dr Claire Jenkins. Claire is a QLD graduate with over 15 years experience as a neighbourhood Veterinarian in Australia and the UK. Animal lover and the founder of Vetchat, born from a passion to help pet carers everywhere access trusted advice earlier, for healthier, happier pets. Grateful to be carer to her beautiful Red-dog.

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