The evening of March 24th, 2020 was a historical day for us in India. It was the day when a nationwide lockdown was announced and our lives were flipped upside down. From meeting friends and acquaintances every day, to a lockdown where we were not able to be in contact with another human owing to the deadly virus infecting our way of life. Owing to the stress, anxiety and overall loneliness felt by the majority of individuals working from home, a pet was the best companion to think of in that particular time. Additionally, working individuals who were now carrying out their daily processes from home, felt it fit to use this time to train their furry babies and pay special attention to their needs.
The upward curve in pet adoption during the pandemic has caused a lot of pet parents to feel guilty now that it is time to return to work. Even if it is for a few hours, pet parents that adopted fur babies during the pandemic have realised that separation distress or separation anxiety in pets is real. Having their parent or guardians around the whole time has made them associate the feeling of comfort or home with their human. Hence, when they are left alone at home, even for a fraction or very small period of time, they exhibit symptoms of extreme stress. Usually, the pet acts like they are terrified to be in the house on their own. Though the signs may vary, here are some indicators of separation anxiety to look out for:
- Barking, whining, howling
- Trembling, panting, drooling
- Chewing, digging, destructive behaviour
- Trying to escape the house
- Eating too much or too little
- Chewing or scratching themselves
- Potty accidents
- Pacing in obsessive patterns
- Digestive or bowel problems
Now, coming to the crux of this fairly unfortunate situation, as a pawrent what can you do to reduce their stress?
- Give your pet some alone time even while you are home to normalise the idea of them being without you, and being okay.
- We as humans often shy away from saying goodbye. It is similar for pets, as that last moment of separation becomes truly difficult and causes symptoms of acute anxiety. The solution to this is not giving your pet as much attention 20 minutes before you leave.
- Crate train your pet. When used correctly, dogs will consider crates a safe place, so being in there while you are away can help them feel calm and protected. Try putting your pet in the crate about half an hour before you leave.
- Leave the radio or TV on at low volume while you are away.
- If your pet’s separation anxiety persists, consult your vet.
Another viable solution can be a pet care home or pet day-care. During the pandemic, a lot of animal lovers have agreed to look after the pets of Covid patients. This reduces both, your stress and your pet’s anxiety as they are well taken care of elsewhere.
It is of paramount importance for pet owners to acknowledge the phenomenon of Separation Anxiety and prepare and train their pets accordingly. Dealing with separation anxiety among pets is as basic and as essential as dealing with mental health issues of humans.