Pets post lockdown

Behaviour, Family, Pets

Behaviour Bites with

Dr Ash Hargreaves BSc DVM MANZCVS (Veterinary behaviour)

Providing Veterinary behaviour education and services across rural Australia through Fur Life Vet clinics.

Separation anxiety

Let’s take a moment to consider the the mental health of our pets as we return to work and school as the COVID-19 restrictions ease and we emerge from lockdown,

Many pets will have loved having their people at home with them more during COVID restrictions. Some pets will have had extra time for company and pats at home, extra play and numerous extra walks and outings in their daily routine.

Now as restrictions ease and we all start heading back to our “new normal” our pets too will have to adjust to new routines of their own.

The media has played a part in raising concern over how our pets will cope with this new change to their lives as many will return to spending significant hours home alone during the working week, and whether or not we will see a rise in behaviour problems as a result of this.

The reality is, that the majority of pets are rather resilient and should cope just fine going back to their old routines and spending more time alone. However, there will be a number of pets who may be at a higher risk of struggling to cope with their new routine than others.

It may be that these pets have never spent large amounts of time on their own, especially if they are a young pet that has become a part of the family not long before or during COVID restrictions. The other group of pets that will likely struggle with these changes will be the pets that have an underlying mental health disorder, such as separation anxiety.

All pets, but especially these more at-risk pets, will benefit from making the transition to their new routine as slow and as smooth as possible. The following recommendations outline just how you can do this for your pet.

1.

Make the transition slow

Rather than suddenly leave your pet home alone for hours every day, try and make the transition slow if this is a possibility for your household.

For example:

  • If everyone doesn’t have to go back to work at once, then stagger their return
  • If you can work from home for a few days, then continue to do so rather than go straight to a full 5 day week at work
  • If you can start with shorter shifts or come home during lunch breaks try to do so for the initial transition.

Give pets things to keep them interested and focused, to prevent them from using their energy in more destructive ways.

  • Rather than feed your pet from a bowl, feed them from food puzzles such as Kong’s or other interactive feeders, you can scatter their food around or leave a treasure hunt by hiding it in multiple places.
  • Give your dog a bone if they are used to having them or another safe object to chew on such as an antler or chew toy.
  • Leave out toys your pet may like to play with and then rotate these each day.

2.

Give your pets plenty of things to do

2.

Give your pets plenty of things to do

Give pets things to keep them interested and focused, to prevent them from using their energy in more destructive ways.

  • Rather than feed your pet from a bowl, feed them from food puzzles such as Kong’s or other interactive feeders, you can scatter their food around or leave a treasure hunt by hiding it in multiple places.
  • Give your dog a bone if they are used to having them or another safe object to chew on such as an antler or chew toy.
  • Leave out toys your pet may like to play with and then rotate these each day.

3.

Keep a routine as much as possible

Keep to a routine time for:

  • walks
  • play
  • bed and
  • feeding times

For dogs, this will mean they know when to expect their next walk or exercise, and they should quickly learn that outside of these times when you are at work, is a good time to rest.

If you are suspicious that your pet is not coping when they are left alone or they become very agitated when you go to leave, try and get footage of your pet when alone. Set up an old smart-phone or tablet to record, or by asking a neighbour to keep an eye on them for you.

 

Your Fur Life Vet should be your first point of call if you are concerned about your pet experiencing separation anxiety or any other behavioural problems.

As true separation anxiety is a mental health disorder, the condition will not improve with time, but rather get worse if left untreated.

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