Every pet parent deals with, or has heard about, separation anxiety. Pet parents may fear their pets have some sort of physical illness causing these problems and rush to the vets office for a full checkup. According to the ASPCA, the symptoms of separation anxiety include excessive barking and howling, escape attempts, pacing, eating of feces, chewing and destruction, and unusual defecation and urination. Separation anxiety occurs when pet parents begin preparing to leave, or while pet owners are away. Unfortunately, separation anxiety can cause serious injury and illness to a pet, especially during dramatic escape attempts. After an initial trip to the veterinarian to rule out possible health problems, pet parents need to take action to correct the problems of separation anxiety.
Keep Your Attitude and Actions Calm Before Leaving.
Getting ready to leave involves a host of typical actions, such as getting dressed, grabbing the keys, and turning off electronic devices. When in a hurry, pets recognize the urgency and react appropriately. Ultimately, the rush of leaving contributes to the pet’s building anxiety.
Install Video and Audio Communication Devices.
Hearing your voice, or seeing your image, will typically calm your pet. Some pet owners have created digital recordings of themselves to play on the television while away. Others opt to leave the TV on, and some will call the home phone and speak to the dogs. These options reassure pets that you haven’t forgotten about them, and the opportunities for symptomatic separation anxiety problems and subsequent trips to the animal hospital, will slowly subside.
Train Your Pet to Become Accustomed to Spending Time Alone.
Separation anxiety behaviors do not develop overnight, so correcting the problem with counterconditioning will take time as well. Begin by leaving your pet for short periods of time, such as during a trip to the mailbox, and gradually increase the separation time over the course of several months. Slipping up and checking on your pet in-person during this process will eradicate all of your previous work, so avoid the temptation to run home midday when reaching lengthy away periods.
Dogs are naturally curious animals, and interaction with toys is beneficial to your pet’s body and mind. Furthermore, toys can provide a safe distraction while you’re away. Purchase interactive toys, such as those you fill with treats, to encourage pets to play alone.
Reward Your Pet When You Return.
After teaching your pet to become accustomed to being alone, it’s important to continue rewarding him, or her, with praise, affection, and treats for appropriate behavior. However, you must ensure you do not provide the treat immediately following inappropriate actions, such as jumping up on your legs upon your return.
Avoid Taking Your Pet With You on All Excursions.
When you have ample chances to take your pet with you, aside from the routine visits for dog grooming, cat grooming, or a checkup at the animal hospital, it’s tempting to bring him along every time. However, your pet will grow to expect you to take him with you. Sadly, this reinforces separation anxiety problem behaviors. Try to limit taking your pet with you on recreational trips to half of your total times away.
In severe cases of separation, a veterinarian may provide you with medications to help. However, you should take a proactive approach to preventing the development of separation anxiety and addressing it, if it occurs.
If your pet has exhibited the symptoms of separation anxiety, contact University Animal Hospital to schedule a consultation first. When all other causes of symptoms are eliminated, the veterinarian can advise you on which of these tips may work best for you pet.