Back to School & Other Causes Of Separation Anxiety in Pets
For many families, fall brings a significant shift in day-to-day schedules. Long summer days are left behind, kids return to school, and evenings and weekends are full of hobbies and extracurricular activities. Some family members, including the furry ones, are less than thrilled with this change.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety happens when pets experience significant stress being left alone. This can happen after a change in routine such as moving to a new home or a change in daily schedules. We often think of cats as being more independent animals, but our feline friends can also feel stressed without their favorite people around. Dogs are social animals and prefer not to be left alone. It seems counterintuitive, but if your pet is extra ecstatic when you come home, it can be a sign of hyper-attachment.
Other signs of separation anxiety include:
- Peeing in the house or outside the litter box
- Chewing, shredding and other destructive behaviors
- Intense barking, whining, meowing, or moaning
- Excessive grooming or licking paws
First, cover the basics! Be sure your pet gets enough play and exercise regularly. Tired, happy pets are less likely to be stressed. Crating should be a positive experience. Clean the litter box or pick up the yard regularly. Make sure there is a quiet place in the house for your floof to go if things get noisy or chaotic (which is common in households with kids!)
Find a pet sitter, perhaps a neighbor or a friend who can spend time with your favorite animal when you’re out of the house. Hire a dog walker or consider a doggy daycare for pups who enjoy that setting. Connect with a behaviorist or trainer to create and guide you through a plan for working with your pet.
Behavior Changes (for Humans)
Start preparing your pet for your absence in small steps through desensitization. Walk around the house with your keys. Put on socks, shoes, or jackets but don’t leave. Go out the door and come back in right away. Practice these steps again and again until your pet is more comfortable. Other ways to ease anxiety include:
- Play background noise, soothing music, or a familiar show on TV when you leave
- Start with shorter absences first
- After you return home, wait until your pet is calm to give them attention
Medication (for Pets)
See your vet to rule out any underlying medical causes for the anxious behaviors. In addition to training, some animals benefit from supplements or medications to keep anxiety under control.
Remember to have compassion for your pet. They are experiencing extreme stress without you around! Extreme separation anxiety rarely goes away without some kind of help. Reach out to our amazing staff at Androscoggin Animal Hospital–we are here to support you and your pet in any stressful situation.