Pet Separation Anxiety

Between the summer school breaks and vacations, pets easily form even closer bonds with their human parents. With less hectic schedules to follow, there is more time available for families to hang out with their pets. In this period of relaxed time, our fur-family members quickly grow accustomed to the additional attention, the longer walks, extra exercise, and extended play-time.

But since our pets are extremely sensitive to any changes in their daily routine, once the season starts changing and vacation time draws to an end, with kids going back to school and away from home for long hours, many dogs and cats may become anxious and show their reaction to these changes with destructive behavior and “accidents” in the house.

Pet Separation AnxietySeparation anxiety is a serious condition, therefore, it’s essential for pet guardians to understand and empathize with the uncertainty and anxiety their fur-kids are experiencing. Separation anxiety can be managed and alleviated with a great deal of patience and compassion, along with providing the appropriate structure.

But since some of the symptoms of separation anxiety, such as lack of appetite, chewing on objects, vomiting, inappropriate elimination and diarrhea are also symptomatic of illness, to rule out any underlying medical condition; a veterinarian’s examination is essential before assuming your pet’s behavior is due to separation anxiety.

To address pet guardians’ concerns about pet separation anxiety with our readers, and offer the most accurate information along with helpful tips on how to handle this condition, I interviewed Dr. Katherine Hodes, one of Banfield Pet Hospital’s veterinarians.

These are the suggestions she offered:
  • Maintain regular schedules and avoid changes.
  • Avoid abrupt changes in diet.
  • Practice leaving your pet alone for short periods of time.
  • Consider leaving the lights, television or radio on when pets are alone during the day.
  • Exercise your pet before you leave the house and/or consider hiring a dog walker.
  • Hide special toys around the house and provide them with interesting and challenging toys.
  • To prevent kitty boredom and to enrich their environment, provide cats with windowsill perches and cat trees and horizontal scratchers.
  • If your pet remains excessively anxious, your veterinarian may consider prescribing medication to help calm your furry friend.

Of course, helping to prevent or minimizing separation anxiety is best accomplished while they are still young. Practicing coming and going for periods of time, assuring them you will return home is an excellent method of desensitization.

Another option to consider is a reliable doggie or kitty daycare program.  But do proceed with caution to make sure that pets are well socialized and get along with other animals.

Books with further information highly recommended by Dr. Hodes are “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson for dog guardians and for cat people, “From the Cat’s Point of View” by Gwen Bohnenkamp.

What do you do to minimize and/ or handle pet separation anxiety?  Share your tips in a comment.