It’s normal for our pets to miss us when we leave the house for several hours a day. Still, some pets can become overly anxious to the point that it affects not only them, but you and your family, too. At Fox Animal Hospital, we have seen many pets that have a hard time adjusting to the absence of their family members, especially during back-to-school season. Check out our tips on how to help your best friends with pet separation anxiety.
Signs that Your Pet Could Have Anxiety
Not sure if your pet is showing signs of separation anxiety? Keep an eye out for:
- A decrease in appetite
- Clingy behavior (i.e., following you everywhere, trying to climb into your lap)
- Barking, whining, or howling when you walk out the door
- Agitation (pacing, panting)
- Accidents in the house
It is also important to note that we should see your pet for an exam before diagnosing them with anxiety. Physical health problems can also lead to pets having accidents indoors or becoming highly agitated.
Ways You Can Help Your Pet Relax
If we find that your pet is physically healthy, anxiety is likely the culprit. Here are some things you can try to improve your pet’s state of mind:
- Be calm when you’re getting ready to leave and walking out the door, and when you’re returning home. With patience and practice, your pet will catch on to your behavior and realize that your departures and returns aren’t anything to get worked up about. You may want to practice leaving for just a few seconds, then increase the duration until your pet is accustomed to your being away.
- Leave the radio and/or the TV on while you’re gone so your pet has ambient background noise or a pleasant visual distraction to keep them occupied. You can also look into DogTV, a program created especially for dogs and keeping them stimulated.
- Try hiding your pet’s favorite treats around the house so they can busy themselves with the task of searching for them. Food puzzles can also keep your pet entertained.
- If daycare fits into your budget, we would highly recommend finding a reputable dog daycare center where your pet can play, socialize, and stay active for the duration of their visit.
- Walk and/or play with your pet for at least 30 minutes before you plan to leave for school/work. Your pet will be tired and happy, and more in the mood for relaxation.
Does It Seem Like Nothing is Working?
Pets with severe separation anxiety will need more than a few simple distractions to help them cope with being alone. Consider looking into behavioral counseling and therapy for your pet—talk to us, and we’ll be happy to offer recommendations for you! Changing your pet’s behaviors can take time, but with patience and perseverance, they can overcome their fears.