Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees turned to working from home last year. As the tri-state gradually reopens and the summer months approach, many people will turn their focus to returning to the office or planning those coveted weekend getaways.
But what about our pets? During our remote lifestyle, pets have been by our sides 24/7, and have arguably been the happiest they’ve ever been.
Americans spent at record-highs last year, over $100 billion, on everything from pet products and veterinary visits, according to the 2020 industry expenditure report by the American Pet Products Association. For this year, the spending is estimated to grow even further.
As we spend more time outside of the home, our animals may be prone to separation anxiety and behavioral issues.
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Here are possible signs of animal stress and how to ensure a smooth transition when heading out the door.
There are a few factors to consider when determining if your pet is experiencing anxiety, according to Bond Vet Chief Veterinarian Officer, Dr. Zay Satchu.
“How they look and act right before we leave the house is a key indicator of an animal that’s just overly involved in our departure,” said Dr. Satchu in a recent interview with NBC New York.
If your pet seems less engaged as you head out, that’s actually a good thing to take into account. However, for those dogs and cats who tend to tag along as you get ready, it’s considered build up, especially since we are the main event in their lives.
According to Dr. Satchu, in order to prevent separation anxiety, try not to verbally say goodbye every time you leave.
“Minimize the signals that you’re leaving. This is a key thing that we do to them that spikes their emotions, giving them all the attention and love right before we disappear,” she explained.
In fact, this vet recommends handing your friend a special treat or reward as you leave, making your departure something your pet can look forward to.
Look for signs of excessive drooling, chewing objects, over grooming and scratching. These acts could be out of boredom, but possibly be signs of stress.
“If you have a pet camera, look to see if they’re pacing or tend to do repetitive behavior like barking, yowling or whimpering. If so, the first diagnostic is to see a vet because illness can look like separation anxiety,” Dr. Satchu said.
You can also try working in new activities that distract or tire your pet out. For food-motivated dogs and cats, try hiding treats and having your pet forage around the home. If you have a ground-level apartment, put up a bird feeder, which can entertain a cat for hours with neighborhood visitors.
As far as the extent of time away, Dr. Satchu recommends starting off leaving within hour increments in the middle of your day. Gradually, expand the time gone to 4 or 5 hours at a time over the course of a few weeks.
If your pet is still experiencing separation anxiety after making these changes to their routine, Dr. Satchu suggests special training. If that doesn’t help after a couple of sessions, then the next step is to work with a veterinary behaviorist or observe them on short-term vet prescribed anxiety medications, which are similar in treating human anxiety, like Prozac and Xanax.
“I think what people fail to realize is that separation anxiety doesn’t happen overnight. It took probably months, maybe years, to build up toward that place. Treatment takes a very long time, so it’s good for pet parents to be aware of prevention to save the stress on the human and animal perspective,” Dr. Satchu said.