Just like people, our pets can feel anxious for many different reasons. It can spread to dogs, cats, birds, and other small pets. If you don’t do anything about a pet’s anxiety, it can lead to long-term behavioural problems that make it hard for the pet to get along with people and other pets. It can also hurt the pet’s relationship with its owner and, in the end, its own health.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Getting separated from their family is one of the most common things that makes pets anxious. It’s called “separation anxiety” and happens when a pet who isn’t used to being alone or apart from its human family is left alone or apart because family members have to go to work, school, travel, or for some other reason.
There are many ways in which pets show separation anxiety, such as:
- Too much crying, howling, barking, meowing, or screeching (birds)
- Chewing on furniture, bedding, toys, pillows, carpets, clothes, and shoes is a destructive habit.
- Scratching or clawing frantically on doors, windows, and walls
- Heavy drooling or salivating in dogs
- Excessive pacing
- Cats that groom themselves too much
- When birds pick at their feathers too much
- Cats have “accidents” where they pee or poop inside the house, but not in the litter box.
- If in a crate, tries to get out, even if it means hurting itself.
- Hairballs can make cats throw up or throw up.
- tries to get out of the house
- Too much fear, shyness, or hiding
What’s Really Going On
A pet’s separation anxiety can be caused by a number of different things. Here are the most often used:
Changes in routine: By nature, pets feel safe with structure and routine in their days, as well as with the same people they see every day. Since pets learn to depend on us for food, shelter, and company, a change in any of these things could be seen as a threat that makes them feel less safe overall.
Temperament: A pet’s personality has a lot to do with how it acts when it is alone or separated. A pet with a calm or confident personality may not react much to changes in its routine or environment, while a pet with a more excitable or sensitive personality may be very upset.
Past Experiences: A pet’s past experiences with certain situations can easily affect how anxious it is about being alone now. This is especially true if the pet was abandoned, abused, or showed anxiety behaviours that were not dealt with.
Household Dynamics: Pets have senses that are much sharper than ours, so they can easily tell how anxious the people in the house are. Unfortunately, a pet’s anxiety can be made worse by a person’s anxiety, especially if the pet is very sensitive or nervous.
If you don’t deal with separation behaviours, they can get worse and harder to fix or manage over time. They can also make it hard for you and your pet to get along and hurt your pet’s health in general. It is very important to notice and deal with separation anxiety behaviours as soon as they start to show up.
Common Anxiety Triggers
Even though they can’t always be predicted, the following things often cause separation anxiety in pets:
- Not getting enough physical activity or mental stimulation during the day.
- Rewarding anxious behaviour that was already there.
- Making you nervous or excited when you are leaving or coming back.
- Lack of a place of refuge or a quiet place that makes it easy to rest.
- Threats from the outside include loud sounds, other dogs, and people walking by.
- Not getting enough sleep.
How You Can Help
Even though seeing a pet with separation anxiety can be upsetting and frustrating, there are many things you can do to help your pet get used to being alone. With the help of our pet behaviourist, we’ve put together these tips to help your pet do better when you’re not around:
- Give your pet play time and physical exercise every day to keep its mind active.
- If you haven’t already, give your pet a structured environment by giving it a set time each day to eat, play, and sleep.
- Make a safe space for your pet, like a comfortable crate or a gated area, where he or she can go to calm down or sleep.
- Make leaving your pet and returning a non-event. Don’t worry about your pet when you leave, and don’t make a big deal out of seeing it when you get home.
- Before you leave, give your pet a high-value item, like a toy or treat, to play with.
- Even when you are home, you should train your pet to spend regular rest time in its safe space. This is very important for young dogs and puppies.
- Puppy and young dog socialisation, experiences that boost their confidence, and regular training help them grow up to be strong, confident dogs.
- Don’t give too much love to your pet. Save the hugs and belly rubs for when your pet is calm and able to enjoy them.
- Find out how to give a gentle massage to your pet to help relieve stress and tension.
- Talk to our behaviour specialist and our veterinarians for help.
- There are also products you can buy over the counter to help pets deal with anxiety. We’d be happy to talk to you about this option and the calming products we recommend and that you can buy in our lobby store.
If your pet’s anxiety doesn’t get better with training or by using our tips to help at home, your vet may decide that an anti-anxiety drug is needed.
More About Training Behavior
Our behaviour specialist at Lone Tree Veterinary Center is an expert at spotting anxiety in pets and can help fix problems before they get worse and hurt your pet’s quality of life and your relationship with it. He will be happy to talk with you about your concerns and tell you what is best for your pet.
If your pet has separation anxiety or any other problem, please don’t be afraid to contact us. We’re here to help your pets live healthy lives with you.