After over a year of quarantining and bonding with their owner during the pandemic, many pets are now experiencing separation anxiety as Canadians spend less time at home. New pets adopted during the pandemic may be more susceptible to separation anxiety, but any pet can experience it. All pet parents should be on the lookout for symptoms and be prepared to help pets address them.
Crista Coppola, Ph.D., PetSmart’s consulting Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), says that identifying and managing separation anxiety in pets can go a long way to easing the transition back to regular activities for pets and pet parents alike.
“It’s crucial for pet parents to understand when their dog is struggling, and that their behaviors are coping mechanisms they can’t necessarily control,” Coppola said. “The first step to understanding your pet is to observe their behavior and determine whether or not separation anxiety is the cause.”
Identifying the Symptoms
Separation anxiety can manifest itself in pets in different ways and as a result, can cause various behavioral responses. Excessive barking and whining, destructive behaviors like shoe and furniture chewing, accidents around the home, and other unusual behaviors like hypersalivation, pacing, or decreased appetite can all be signs of separation anxiety.
“You don’t know how your pet is reacting when you’re gone, unless you have some way to monitor them,” said Coppola. She recommends pet parents set up a pet camera like the Wyze V3 Pet Camera to monitor their pet’s behavior when they’re gone and identify symptoms. Alternatively, you can sign up for PetSmart’s new three-week program, Stress Less Training which is dedicated to identifying and managing your dog’s anxious behaviours related to separation.
Preparing Pets for the Inevitable
Once a pet parent determines their pet is experiencing separation anxiety, Coppola recommends adjusting pets’ routines by taking short trips outside of the home without their pet – even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
“Grab your phone, put on your shoes and shake your keys at times other than when you are leaving, and don’t make a big deal about leaving and coming home,” she said. “Let your pet know you’re leaving but come back shortly after, and when you arrive home, say hello and give your pet a chance to settle before engaging in fun activities.”
Help Your Pet Feel Safe Alone
Next, Coppola recommends creating a cozy, pet-safe zone, equipped with puzzle toys and activities to keep pets occupied while they are alone. Dog parents can use calming aids to help, like the Thundershirt (also available for cats) that applies gentle pressure that can soothe pets, and the Adaptil Calming Collar, which mimics dog calming pheromones that signal to your dog that they’re safe and secure. Alternatively, for cats, try the Feliway Classic Starter Kit.
Keep Your Pet Mentally and Physically Stimulated
In between trips away from home, Coppola recommends engaging your pet with physical and mental activities like games and puzzles to help fulfill pets and keep them happy even when you’re gone.
- Mentally stimulating training courses like PetSmart’s Brain Games™ for Dogs can help pups feel mentally, physically and emotionally fulfilled and can even help you build a stronger bond.
- For cats, try a hunting box, ball dome or a circuit toy to help them entertain themselves while you’re out.
- PetSmart’s Doggie Day Camp is also a great option to ensure pets are in expert care and socialized while pet parents are away.
“The bottom line is routines are helpful for most pets and even a vacation or a weekend away can disrupt their routine, making pets more susceptible to separation anxiety,” Dr. Coppola said. “As pet parents and pet lovers, it is important to understand how we can prioritize our pets’ mental health and how we can provide them with the tools they need to cope with change now and in the future.”
For more information on separation anxiety, visit PetSmart.ca.
SOURCE PetSmart Canada