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Ever had to leave your pet alone for a few hours and they ended up whining, barking and messing up your home? Your pet could be displaying signs of separation anxiety.
WHAT DOES SEPARATION ANXIETY IN PETS LOOK LIKE?
Signs of separation anxiety in pets can range from barking, howling, digging and destroying things - to excessive drooling, panting, urinating, defecating and in some cases, escaping. This behavior can often be indicative of an underlying medical problem, so it is best to rule those out by consulting a veterinarian first. In contrast to this behavior, pets without separation anxiety are generally docile and inactive in their owner’s absence.
WHAT CAUSES SEPARATION ANXIETY?
The root cause of separation anxiety amongst pets is being away from their owners for a considerable period of time. This separation could be due to a change in their owner’s schedule, loss of a family member, change in ownership or new ownership, being left alone when they’re accustomed to always having family around, among various other reasons. Since there are a lot of causes that trigger separation anxiety in pets, it is often recommended to start treatment as early as possible.
HOW CAN IT BE MANAGED?
Depending on whether your pet’s anxiety is mild or severe, several measures can be taken to treat it. The first step to the process, however, is taking your pet to the vet’s clinic. Once other medical issues have been ruled out, your vet can recommend ways to curb this behavior.
In case of mild separation anxiety…
A lot of pets benefit from engaging in exercise & play right before their owners leave. In milder cases, tiring out your dog helps them settle down when they are alone. Counterconditioning is another way of engaging dogs while their owners are away. This involves giving them food-releasing puzzle toys that take time for them to solve and lead to their favorite treat. Giving your pet a treat every time you’re about to leave the house can help in reconditioning their mind to consider you leaving the house as a good thing. It might even become something they learn to look forward to.
In case of moderate to severe separation anxiety…
Pets with severe separation anxiety are not easily distracted by treats and puzzles. To get them accustomed to being alone, pet parents can try to leave them alone for shorter periods of time initially and give them treats to reward appropriate behavior. Once a pet is used to being by themselves for short durations, one can gradually start increasing this duration. For moderate to severe cases, the veterinarian may prescribe medication and natural supplements.
Although it doesn’t guarantee that they won’t face this issue, training your pet from the get-go is a great way to prevent Separation Anxiety. Building a predictable routine eases pets into adapting to their owner’s home & life.