Dogs are sociable animals, throughout history they have always lived in packs or “family” groups. Cats, on the other hand are more independent and rarely suffer from separation anxiety. Some dogs crave the companionship of humans and some dogs are happier with other dogs. Either way they would prefer not to be alone for long periods of time. Most dogs should cope with being left for a few hours, particularly if this has happened from a young age. As the country comes out of “lockdown” we expect to see a dramatic increase in the numbers of pets developing Separation Anxiety.
Signs your pet could be suffering from separation anxiety:
- Your pet follows you from room to room when you are at home and become anxious when they cannot see you.
- They become distressed when you prepare to leave the house.
- Your pet becomes elated when you return home.
- They show any of these physiological symptoms in relation to being on their own: panting, pacing, salivating/drooling, drinking excessively, increased heart rate, increased respiration rate and a need to go to the toilet.
How to prepare your pet for coming out of lockdown
There is no quick fix for this issue. With time and patience you can make your pet feel less worried and more relaxed when they are on their own. If you would like to talk about any of this or need veterinary advice then consider joining the PetGP member service https://pet-gp.co.uk/telephone-veterinary-nurse-service/
If your dog hasn’t been crated before, introducing a cage at this stage may cause more stress so use stair gates to create barriers. Have a comfortable bed, water and food bowls and maybe a radio for company. Remember if your dog is a chewer to ensure these items are safe for them. Leave something in that area with your smell to give the dog a sense of security. You could also try using a pheromone diffuser like Adaptil. Choose a few days when you know you will be home and not have to leave the dog for too long. Throughout the first day randomly pop your dog in their safe area with a chew or filled Kong toy (chewing is a calming activity for a dog). Stay close but go about your business for a few minutes then open the gate, the dog can then choose to come out or carry on chewing in there. Build this up over the next few days to longer sessions with you going out of sight occasionally and eventually you should be able to leave the house knowing you have a calmer dog at home.
If you think your feline friend may be suffering from separation anxiety then try using a Feliway Classic pheromone diffuser. Make a safe comfortable place for them to hide. Somewhere high up or in a box would be ideal. Ensure they have access to a litter tray or a cat flap, water and food. Also consider leaving an item of clothing that smells like you nearby. Start by going out for very short periods of time and building this up slowly.
In some instances, for both cats and dogs, you may need specialised advice depending on how extreme the signs are. If you think this is the case its always better to speak to your vet before contacting a behaviourist.