A pug sitting in a window looking outside

It seems as if we live in a world of unsettling statistics and harrowing headlines. It’s no wonder that we’re all a little on edge, and our pets are no exception. 

Animals, especially companion animals, are incredibly intuitive. They pick up our emotional states, and often react in kind. For the good times and the terrible ones, our pets hold up a mirror for us. And, as we all work towards establishing a new normal, a natural consequence is, of course, pet separation anxiety.

Hunkered Down

Many people adopted pets before full quarantine orders came through and some pets found their forever homes afterwards. These animals were lucky to have so much time with their new owners, learning how to behave while offering lots of support to their anxious or stressed people. 

Likewise, resident pets took full advantage of their owner’s time and attention these past few months. There were snuggles on demand! Extra play time! Snacks! Constant companionship was the order of every day. But now people are returning to work or school, and the emotional life of pets hangs in the balance.

What We’re Talking About

Pet separation anxiety is characterized by a deep fear of being left alone. Some pets will experience only mild anxiety, whereas others can be overwhelmed by it. If ignored, pet separation anxiety can diminish a pet’s quality of life and affect the human-animal bond. 

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Indeed, symptoms range from subtle to severe, and typically include the following:

  • Increased clinginess
  • Frequent or constant vocalizations, such as barking, howling, whining, etc.
  • Pacing
  • Escape attempts
  • Scratching doorways, windows and any exit points
  • Soiling inside the house, or not in the litter box
  • Hiding or withdrawal
  • Destructive behavior like chewing on shoes or furniture

Watching Out

Some pet owners can see and experience firsthand the signs of anxiety. Others might need to rely on a pet camera to watch while they’re not at home.

Either way, when you have proof that your pet is anything but chill when you’re not around it’s time to act quickly. Pet separation anxiety can definitely worsen over time.

Strategies to Help Your Pet

Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to ease your pet’s nervousness or worried behaviors. The Pet Experts recommend the following:

  • Start slowly by leaving your pet for 15-30 minutes at a time. Slowly increase your time apart only when you’re sure they aren’t freaking out. This is where a video camera might come in handy.
  • Before you leave, give your pet an opportunity to work out. Using up any extra energy will help them settle down when you leave.
  • Provide a brain puzzle for them to work on, such as peanut butter-filled Kong. 
  • Whether it’s 15 minutes or 4 hours, when you do return home try to act as calm and neutral as possible. If they associate your arrival with loads of affection and excitement their separation anxiety symptoms may be reinforced. Give them your full attention when they calm down.
  • Again, give them plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation when you’re back together again.

If things don’t improve, you may want to hire a pet sitter or dog walker to give your pet meaningful moments to look forward to. When pet separation anxiety symptoms need more help, prescription medication and behavioral training may create positive outcomes. 

If we can assist you  further with your pet’s health and behavior, Naperville Animal Hospital is always here for you.