While some regions of the country are still in the midst of social distancing, others have started to return to work and school. The many weeks of the Stay at Home Order and other forms of socially isolating, has been a strain on most families, but our pet family members may have gotten quite used to us being with them 24/7. Since pets are ruled  by routine, the sudden return to normal life can be hard on them to cope with.

This is why the team at Huntington Veterinary Hospital wants to help pet owners ease their furry friends into the transition. We have a few tips for helping pets adjust after COVID-19 quarantine measure to avoid anxiety and stress.

Separation Anxiety and Your Pet

If your pet has developed “static cling” to you and has a problem with being apart, they likely have some separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a condition when your pet is highly averse to being alone. This behavior generally develops when a pet has not been socialized, but there are some suggestions that certain breeds are more prone to it based on genetics. 

Any pet, especially dogs, can become accustomed to the togetherness routine. As pack animals, they rely on their packmates to ensure safety and their survival. They look to us in the same way. If your pet isn’t used to being alone or has some other fears, phobia, or anxiety, they may be susceptible to separation anxiety.

The symptoms of this form of anxiety include:

  • Clinginess
  • Howling and barking when you are away
  • Destructive behavior, like digging and chewing
  • Increased territorial marking and accidents
  • Scratching at doors and windows
  • Shaking, trembling
  • Lack of appetite
  • Hiding
  • Attempts to escape

There are some effective ways to acclimate your pet to time spent alone, but in more severe cases of pet separation anxiety, medication and consultation with your veterinarian might be necessary.

Helping Pets Adjust After COVID-19

To avoid some of the issues of anxiety in your pet, there are ways to ease them into all of the changes.

  1. Start the new routine as early as possible. Adjust the routine to the new prior to when you need to return to work or school. This gives your pet time to get used to things. For example, feed your pet earlier, go for a morning walk, and all of the other things that would occur during a work or school day.
  2. Leave your pet alone gradually. If you will be gone a full 8 hours, start increasing the time you spend away now. Leave your pet for a few hours at a time, such as when you go to visit friends or run errands. Gradually increase the number of hours over the next few days or weeks.
  3. Give them things to do. No one wants to feel bored, and this is true with your pet. Give them plenty of enrichment items like puzzles and toys. Offer your cat a window view by installing a cat perch and the equivalent. Kong toys filled with peanut butter and flavored Nylabones are a great choice for wiling away some solo time.
  4. Minimize their emotional reaction. When you leave, don’t make it a long, sad goodbye. Instead, stay positive and give them a meal or other favorite thing before you depart. When you return, downplay the excitement by going about feeding them their dinner and going about your evening chores. This helps decrease anxiety associated with the separation.
  5. Hire a pet sitter or dog walker. If you spend long hours at the office, consider hiring a sitter who can come by and play with your dog. A mid-day visit, coupled with exercise, can decrease the likelihood of destructive behavior. Daycares are also a good choice.

If your pet is experiencing fears and separation anxiety, please contact us. We are here with additional recommendations for transitioning to a new normal after the pandemic. We look forward to seeing you and your cherished fur friend.