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How To Manage Your Pet’s Separation Anxiety

If leaving your pet home alone triggers them to cry, it could be pet separation anxiety. Similar to a human-grade panic attack, your dog or cat could be displaying a range of symptoms linked to this disorder. Separation anxiety stems from the literal separation from a human or animal your pet has bonded closely with.

Separation anxiety can be a significant issue for pets, causing distress and behavioral problems. Here are some common triggers and symptoms your pet may be facing.

Triggers of Pet Separation Anxiety:

  • Changes in routine
  • Work schedules
  • Vacations
  • Changes in household members
  • Past trauma

Symptoms to Look For:

  • Excessive barking
  • Howling or whining
  • Chewing or clawing furniture
  • Scratching doors
  • Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Attempts to escape
  • Changes in eating
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

Tips for Pet Parents

For Dogs:

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Gradual Desensitization: Begin by leaving your dog alone for short periods, gradually increasing the duration to help them get used to being alone. If your absence triggers your pup, leave items with your scent, such as clothing. Your scent provides comfort to your pet when you’re away.

Routine and Predictability: Maintain a consistent daily schedule for feeding, walks, and playtime. This predictability can help reduce anxiety for your pup.

Interactive Toys and Puzzles: Provide engaging toys and puzzles to keep your dog mentally stimulated and distracted during your absence.

For Cats:

Gradual Alone Time: Start with short periods of alone time and slowly increase it, allowing your cat to adjust to being by themselves.

Environmental Enrichment: Create a stimulating environment with climbing structures, scratching posts, and interactive toys to keep your cat engaged.

Interactive Play: Spend quality time playing with your cat using toys that mimic prey. Playtime helps reduce stress and provides physical exercise.

Safe Spaces: Ensure your cat has access to quiet, safe areas to retreat and feel secure.

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Tools and Professional Help:

Regular Check-Ins: If possible, check in on your pet during the day or use pet cameras to monitor their behavior. The check-in provides reassurance to your pet and helps you identify your cat’s or dog’s pet anxiety symptoms.

Veterinary Advice: If your pet is expressing signs of severe separation anxiety, consult your veterinarian about possible medications or supplements that can help alleviate their symptoms.

Calming Pheromones/Treats: Use products like calming pheromone spray or treats with natural ingredients to help reduce your pet’s anxiety and promote their well-being.

Training and Behaviorists: How professional trainers can assist in behavior modification. You can work with an experienced trainer to address separation anxiety through positive reinforcement and behavior modification techniques. Trainers can help you create a daily routine that works best for you and your pet.

Sharon Eikey and Wishes

Managing pet separation anxiety requires patience and consistency. Understanding the causes and applying routine and strategy can help your pet feel more comfortable and secure when alone.

Need additional support? LifeLine has more information and resources on pet care for pet owners.

References
  1. PetMD. (n.d.). Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Cats: Symptoms and Solutions.
  2. American Kennel Club (AKC). (n.d.). How to Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety. 
  3. ASPCA. (n.d.). Separation Anxiety.
  4. Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Cats.
  5. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). (n.d.). Coping with Separation Anxiety in Pets.
  6. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB). (n.d.). Separation Anxiety: Prevention and Management.

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