Pets can have a hard time adjusting the school year—just like our human kids! The fun days of summer are over, and their best friends are now gone for the better part of the day. It’s enough to make anyone a little blue! Yet instead of a bit of sadness, pets can sometimes develop behavioral problems, particularly pet separation anxiety. It is usually triggered by a sudden change to their routine and happens because pets don’t always understand that when their human leaves, they always come back. An empty house can feel a lot like abandonment! While dogs are primarily the ones associated with this condition, it can affect our feline friends, too. We’re here to offer tips from our veterinarians and animal hospital staff so you can help your pet stave off those back to school blues.
What Does Pet Separation Anxiety Look Like?
Before we dive into ways to alleviate this condition, it’s important to understand the signs of it. Since all the symptoms occur when you’re not around, you’ll have to do some (pretty easy) detective work when you arrive home. Clues to look for include:
- A path of destruction. Maybe your shoes are torn up, pillows are dissected, or any papers on the table have been shredded to bits.
- Signs of attempted escape. Your pet may have attempted to make a frantic escape to reach you. Look for claw marks or ripped carpet near doors or windows.
- House soiling. Defecation or urination in places where they don’t belong can be a sign of nervousness and fear.
- Excessive vocalization. Your neighbors will likely inform you if your dog or cat makes a ruckus every time you leave.
If you notice any of these signs, talk to your veterinarian. If it happens only while you’re away, there’s a good chance it’s separation anxiety, but these signs could also point toward a medical condition. It’s important to rule out any underlying conditions before we begin treating separation anxiety.
How to Prevent and Reduce Separation Anxiety
Here are some tips to help your pet cope:
- Get them a food puzzle filled with their favorite treats, or a special toy that they only get when you leave. This helps create a positive association with being alone.
- Plan stimulating activities around your schedule. Take a walk early in the morning, have a quick play session with your cat, and make sure your kids take time to play with your pet in the evenings. Exercise and playtime help keep your pet from getting bored.
- Keep arrivals and departures low-key. A simple goodbye and ignoring your pet for a minute or two when you come home can help them realize that your comings and goings aren’t a big deal—and certainly nothing to get fussed about!
- Leave the TV or radio on while you’re away so your pet can hear human voices which may help keep them calm.
If your pet suffers from more severe anxiety, it may be necessary to use an anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification. This can help take their edge off and help them respond better to training. Talk to your veterinarian today about the options! Additionally, please contact our animal hospital at (218) 486-1509 with any questions or concerns about pet separation anxiety.