COVID-19 and separation anxiety in pets

by | General Pet Care |

Since the beginning of March, we have seen many changes to our daily routines as a result of COVID-19. Whether we realize it or not, these changes have likely also impacted our pets. With some of us beginning to transition back to work, the sudden change in routine can result in separation anxiety in our pets.

Pets at risk of separation anxiety

All companion animals are susceptible to developing separation anxiety, especially if they have become used to spending more time with their families. However, some animals may be more likely than others to develop separation anxiety. Pets who experience a great deal of change, such as a new environment or a completely new schedule, can be at a higher risk. In addition, pets who have previously suffered from separation anxiety are at a higher risk of relapsing, even if they have been treated successfully.

 Signs of separation anxiety
  • Howling, barking or whining excessively
  • Housetrained dogs having “accidents” indoors
  • Inappropriate chewing or eating of household items
  • Digging at the carpet or scratching at windows and doors
  • Attempts to escape their crate
  • Excessive drooling or panting

More signs can be found here.

What to do 

To help prevent separation anxiety and unwanted behaviours in your furry friends when your schedule returns to normal, the Ontario SPCA has these five tips for pet owners:

  1. Create a consistent daily routine. If your pet only went on three walks per day before COVID-19, maintain that level so when you return to work, your pet doesn’t expect to go on 10 walks a day!
  2. Mealtime is the most anticipated event of the day and should be given at roughly the same time daily. If your pet’s meal times have changed since you’ve been home more, slowly start to move the time back to when they would normally be fed.
  3. Institute “nap time” or “quiet time” throughout the day. This should be a time for rest, away from you (not under the desk, or perhaps on it, in your home office) to help your pet adjust to more upcoming time alone.
  4. Go outside for a few minutes and then return. Animals need to understand that you can leave, and you always come back. That will help reduce separation anxiety.
  5. Provide self-entertaining toys, or chew toys, to encourage independent activities.

If your pet is at a higher risk for separation anxiety, it can be very helpful to start these exercises sooner rather than later. For more information, read our article on Separation Anxiety in Dogs.

For dogs with a history of separation anxiety, or those showing symptoms, you can try incorporating some of these treatment tactics into the above exercises.

  1. Try a pheromone product, like Adaptil®, that mimics the comforting pheromone given off by a mother dog. Purchase it online or at most pet stores.
  2. A wrap, like Thundershirt® can provide calming pressure for your dog, much like a hug or a weighted blanket. You can purchase Thundershirts online and at most pet stores.
  3. Background noise from a TV or radio can be a useful tool for calming your dog. Choose a channel with minimal loud and/or angry voices. Studies show classical and reggae music to be calming for dogs, too.

For more suggestions visit Will Separation Anxiety Strike After Coronavirus?