How to Manage Your Pet's Separation Anxiety As States Reopen

Wellness

How to Manage Your Pet's Separation Anxiety As States Reopen

Pets.Pet Medication
Jennifer Hadley
By Jennifer Hadley
Jul 21, 2020 - Updated Jun 10, 2021
Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
Medically Reviewed ByCarina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS
Sad pug looking out window

Dogs who are suddenly left alone when they are used to consistent human presence may exhibit separation anxiety, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Although experts do not yet fully understand why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, while others do not, veterinarians nationwide agree that any abrupt change in schedule or routine can bring about anxiety in pets.

Following months of quarantine, with millions more Americans working from home than usual, countless pets across the nation have become accustomed to constant human presence, increased interaction with their owners, and often increased exercise and activity. Moreover, with so many families deciding to welcome a pet into the family during the coronavirus shutdown, many pets will be experiencing separation from their owners for the first time as states reopen.

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How do I know if my pet has separation anxiety?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) suggests that separation anxiety (and its often bothersome and/or destructive corresponding behaviors) is triggered by the pet’s separation from their owner or guardian with whom they feel attached to. Symptoms of separation anxiety in your dog can run the gamut from pacing to escaping. Fortunately, even if your dog exhibits the earmarks of separation anxiety, medication such as Fluoxetine, along with other treatments may help to ease your pet’s distress.

Pacing

Walking or trotting in a fixed pattern when separated from their owners is a sign of separation anxiety in pets. Although generally harmless, this symptom may go unnoticed, as dogs who pace as the result of separation anxiety tend to do so after their owner has left, according to the ASPCA. If you suspect that your dog may be pacing in your absence, you may consider setting up a pet camera.

Barking and Howling

Persistent barking and/or howling after their owners have left the home is a sign of separation anxiety in dogs. This symptom may also go unnoticed by pet owners as states reopen and they return to work. You may first be made aware of this symptom by a neighbor, or from using a pet camera.

Urinating and Defecating Indoors

Some dogs with separation anxiety will urinate or defecate in the home, when their owner or guardian is away. If your pet begins to exhibit this behavior when you return to work, but doesn’t do so when you’re home, separation anxiety may be the cause.

Digging or Chewing

Separation anxiety symptoms such as digging or chewing are not only destructive, but potentially dangerous to your pet. In addition to tearing up walls, carpets, or window sills, your pet may ingest dangerous materials, or physically injure themselves. It is not uncommon for dogs that chew or dig in the absence of their owner to scrape their paws, damage their nails, or even break their teeth.

Escaping

Separation anxiety may cause your pet to try to escape or to succeed in escaping. Efforts to escape from a crate or from your home pose a significant injury risk to your dog, For example, in an effort to escape from a crate a dog may cut its paws or nose. Likewise, in trying to escape by digging or chewing through a door, window sill, or the floor, dogs are at risk of sustaining wounds, along with potentially ingesting harmful materials (carpet, wood, linoleum, tile, etc.). In the worst cases, dogs who successfully escape from their home or yard are at risk of getting hit by a car, or getting lost.

Dealing With Separation Anxiety in Dogs

As restrictions end and states open up, pet owners should be aware that their transition back to work may trigger pet separation anxiety. That’s why it’s smart to begin preparing your pets as soon as you’re aware that you will be returning to work. Experts recommend considering crate training, taking short separation breaks from your pet, and providing enrichment tools and toys to keep them stimulated and entertained.

Crate Training for Separation Anxiety

Crate training can benefit both humans and their beloved pets, as it protects the home, and protects the pup. However, it is important to note that crating a dog when you’re not home may trigger additional stress and anxiety. In addition to watching your dog’s behavior during crate training, be sure to speak with your veterinarian about behaviors your pet exhibits during the training process.

Take Short Trips Without Your Pet

Before returning to full time work hours, it may help ease your pet’s separation anxiety if you begin taking shorter trips away from them. Although you may be tempted to take them with you on walks, or to run errands, consider leaving them at home for periods of time, to get them used to being without you, in the days and weeks leading up to your return to work.

Toys to Keep Dogs Busy

Toys which keep your dog stimulated may help to prevent boredom and distress while you’re gone. The introduction of various puzzle-type toys, or even games dogs can play alone may also help to curb symptoms of pet separation anxiety, when you return to work.

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Medication for Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Despite your best efforts to calm and prepare your dog for your return to work, in some cases your dog may benefit from medication to treat separation anxiety. When talking with your veterinarian, be sure to inform them of any vitamins, supplements, or other medications your dog takes. Likewise, be sure to mention any history of seizure, or other medical conditions affecting your dog. In the absence of contraindications, your dog may benefit from an FDA approved form of Fluoxetine, which is labeled to treat separation anxiety in dogs.

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Spending Quality Time with Your Pet

Although the amount of time you will have with your pet will be reduced as states reopen, the quality of the time you spend with your pet doesn’t need to suffer. To make the most of your time together, be sure to take time to play, learn new tricks, explore new neighborhoods or parks, and include them in your daily activities as you can. Even spending quiet time, devoted to snuggling, petting them, talking to them, or just relaxing together can strengthen the bond between you and your pet.


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Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley

Jen Hadley is a freelance writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, who writes extensively about the medical, legal, health care, and consumer products industries. Jen is a regular contributor to RxSaver.

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS., is a pharmacist who earned her PharmD from St. John’s University in Queens, NY. She maintains an active practice, serving as a Board-Certified Pediatric Pharmacotherapy Specialist at a large metropolitan teaching hospital in New York City. Carina has also published in pharmacy journals and works as a consultant reviewing medical articles for publication.

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