Post-Pandemic Planning: Helping Your Pet Adjust to the New Normal

If you and your family are about to return to work or other life obligations after the Stay at Home Order ends, it will be a big adjustment. Even though it will be good to return to a somewhat normal routine for us, the change can be a big adjustment for all.

You and your human family aren’t the only ones who will be dealing with the changes, though. Your pet may be feeling the tension of this transition and has had behavioral changes, such as clinginess or fear, every time you leave.

The team at Ten West Bird and Animal Hospital understands that the transition can be rough on your pet companion and want to give you some pointers on helping your pet adjust.

Pet Separation Anxiety Basics

Separation anxiety occurs in many animals, from small mammals and birds to dogs and cats, but it is most notably seen in dogs. This is because they are pack animals and need their denmates to feel secure and safe. 

Since the family is your dog’s de facto pack, they seek to be with you at all times. Since COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantine, their wish has largely been granted.

Separation anxiety in pets is an intense discomfort with being alone. It can occur for a number of reasons, including when kids return to school after being at home during the summer. Any change in routine can cause anxiety in pets. This anxiety is specific, though, to being left by their owner or loved ones. 

Symptoms of pet separation anxiety include:

  • Chronic barking
  • Scratching at doors
  • Chewing on things
  • Digging
  • Trying to escape
  • Self-mutilation (chewing on paws and skin)
  • Whining/howling
  • Depression
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Not eating

When these signs are noticed, your pet is likely experiencing this form of anxiety. Please contact us for an appointment so we can get to a good solution for them.

Prevention: Helping Your Pet Adjust to Change

Since we can’t stay home with our pets indefinitely (although we may want to), we can make some changes to dissauge the fear and anxiety.

  1. Adjust your routine to match the new. As soon as you know what your schedule is, start a week or so beforehand to acclimate your pet. If you start work at 8 a.m., get up early for exercise and mealtime. Or, feed your pet right before you leave as an added perk. Keep the same routine for your pet, even on weekends and holidays.
  2. Consider enrichment toys. Treat puzzles, games, and new toys can make your pet’s time away from you more enjoyable. Busy things to do, like a frozen Kong toy, can help wile away the hours.
  3. Exercise your pet. A tired pet is one who is less anxious or destructive. If your pet is getting ample exercise before you go, they are much happier than when bored. As soon as you return, go for another hike, walk, or jog, or simply play with your pet for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Downplay your leaving and returning. Don’t overstress either and maintain a calm demeanor. Avoid long goodbyes or excited returns. Just go about your errands and give your pet something to do, but dismiss too much excitement so it doesn’t reinforce your pet’s anxiety.
  5. Ask someone to stop by. If you are gone for long hours, hire a dog sitter or a neighbor, friend, or other pet sitter to come by and play with your pet. This gives them a chance to see someone, go outside to relieve themselves, and have some fun.

Some medications and pheromone sprays can help ease the stress in pets who have this disorder. We can discuss with you some options in helping your pet adjust to the new change. Please call us!