Preventing Separation Anxiety in Pets

As restrictions on gatherings begin to be lifted around Australia, many of us will begin to return to work in the next few weeks, VetShopAustralia staff included.

But for many pets, this will be a very tough time as they readjust to not having you around all day. It is inevitable that some pets will experience separation anxiety as a result of this, so we thought we would put together a guide on how to ease your pet back into things and prepare them for a return to normal.

A Golden Retriever sitting among chairs is smiling at the camera

What is Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is when a pet experiences severe distress while separated from their owner. The owner can often be completely unaware that their pet is suffering while they are gone as the pet can act completely normal when they are around. It might only be bad behaviour by a pet that can tip the owner off.

A pet that has separation anxiety can have a variety of symptoms including:

A grey kitten is standing on its back legs with a timber floor visible in the background

For Dogs

  • Inappropriate urination or defecation (going bathroom inside the house but not in a designated area)
  • Barking or howling
  • Chewing, digging or destructive behaviour
  • Attempting to escape or escaping your house or yard
  • Pacing in a particular spot - often up a down a fence or in front of a window
  • Coprophagia - this is the act of a dog defecating and their eating the faeces
A Beagle is lying on a white fluffy rug and is half hidden by a brown blanket

For Cats

  • Inappropriate urination of defecation (going bathroom outside of their litter box or on clothing, sheets, towels, etc)
  • Excessive meowing
  • Excessive grooming
  • Eating too fast or not eating when you are away
  • If they recognise the signs that you are about to leave the house they could become distressed and vocalise loudly or hide
  • When you arrive home they follow you everywhere and demand constant attention
A tabby cat is looking out a window

Rule Out Other Causes

It is always important to take your pet to their vet for a full check up to make sure any symptoms they display can’t be explained by another medical condition.

Preventing Separation Anxiety

If you have been working or studying or simply spending more time at home in recent weeks, your pet has likely gotten used to having you around a lot more so it will be quite a shock for them when we all go back to work. To prepare your pet for this return to “normal” and reduce their chance of developing separation anxiety, here are a few things to help them ease into this change.

A close up photo of a blue Cattle Dog at the beach with a sand dune covered in grass in the background

Start Small

Start to take short trips outside the house, increasing their time as your pet adjusts to your absence.

Give Them Lots To Do

Ensure your pet has plenty to keep them entertained while you are gone. Talking your dog for a walk before you leave for work or ensuring they have plenty of interactive toys to entertain themselves with will ensure they won’t spend hours at the door waiting for your return. You can view our article full of great games to entertain your dog right here.

An English Cocker Spaniel Puppy is sitting on a dirt track in the middle of long grass and lots of trees

More Than Mild Anxiety

For pet’s that suffer from more severe separation anxiety, your vet may recommend a medication for them, or you may find a pet behaviourist useful to help you train your pet.

Every Day Is Take Your Dog To Work Day

For those of us that are lucky enough to work in a pet friendly workplace (like us here at VetShopAustralia), you might be able to take your pet to work with you while you transition back to working from an office. If you don’t have a pet friendly workplace, perhaps a friend or family member can pet sit during the day for you, or you can send your pooch off to doggy day care which will also help them develop great social skills.

A small black and white English Bulldog is reaching up to a desk to investigate a bowl of sweet biscuits next to a coffee and notepad

Products to Help Your Pet

  • Vetalogica makes a chewable tablet for both cats and dogs that contains natural ingredients to help reduce stress in pets without causing drowsiness.
  • Zylkene is a natural solution derived from a protein in milk that has been proven to help relax cats and dogs. It is available in three strengths. 
  • Adaptil is a product that is available as a collar, diffuser and a spray that releases a pheromone specific for dogs that helps them feel relaxed and comforted.
  • Feliway is the cat version of Adaptil and is available as spray or diffuser that releases a pheromone for cats that helps reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
  • Blackmores Complete Calm is a tasty chew for dogs that contains tryptophan and B vitamins to help reduce anxiety in dogs.
  • Thundershirt Dog Anxiety Jacket can have a calming effect on anxious dogs. The jacket wraps around the dog’s torso and applies a gentle, constant pressure and is available in 7 sizes to fit dogs of all sizes
A dark Golden Retriever is lying on lush grass

We hope these tips have been useful in helping your pet readjust and ensure a smooth return to work for you.

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