Vet charity PDSA offers expert advice on avoiding separation anxiety blues
While many of our four-legged friends will be enjoying lots of extra attention and time at home with their owners, leading vet charity PDSA is warning that many pets could suffer with separation anxiety as lockdown eases and normality resumes.
PDSA Vet Anna Ewers Clark said: “Especially dogs are social animals and some of them can become extremely anxious and distressed when they’re away from their owner or left alone – this is called separation anxiety. Over time it can become a serious behavioural issue; some of the signs could include excessive barking and whining, destructive behaviour, attempts to escape, pacing and going to the toilet in the house.
“As lockdown slowly eases it will come as a big shock when our regular working routines start up again and our pets are left at home alone. However, by preparing now, you can help your dog avoid feeling this way by easing them back into a routine.”
Anna’s top tips for preventing separation anxiety post-lockdown include:
- To begin, leave your pets alone while you spend time in another room or go out for a short trip. Gradually build up the amount of time your pet is spending on their own until they’re ready to go back to their normal routine. As a general rule, especially dogs you shouldn’t leave alone for longer than four hours at a time.
- For dogs make sure your dog has been for a good walk to tire them out before you leave them alone. This will help them to settle and rest while you’re away.
- When you do have to go out, try to prepare in advance so you’re not rushing which can cause stress for your pet as well as you! Always leave your pet calmly and don’t get them excited before you go. It may feel strange not to say goodbye to your pet when you go, but leaving without a fuss allows your pet to settle more quickly. When you come home do this calmly and quietly too.
- When your pet needs to be left alone for a few hours, there are things you can do to stop them getting bored or worried. Leave safe ‘activities’ such as destruction boxes for them to play with as well as interactive toys and indestructible chew toys to help keep them busy while they’re waiting for you to get home.
- Create a relaxing environment for your pet. Make their bed cosy and secure in a quiet area in your home and encourage them to spend time there even while you’re at home with them. You can leave an old item of clothing out with your scent on. Plug-in diffusers such as Pet Remedy or a collar that releases natural calming remedies can help too.
Anna adds: “Severe cases of separation anxiety in pets can be distressing for you and your pet and may require professional help, so the earlier you begin preparing the better they will manage when our normal routines resume.”
In times of uncertainty and hardship pets will still fall ill or be injured and need emergency, life-saving care. PDSA needs the public’s support more than ever before. To donate, visit: www.pdsa.org.uk/ appeal.