Separation Anxiety

The end of summer vacation can be an unsettling time for some families as the transition to buying school supplies, making lunches and waking up early to get the kids off to school comes too soon. This also may be true for your pets at home as their routine is once again disrupted. Unfortunately, with the change of getting back into the school routine, your pet may experience differing levels of separation anxiety as they may have gotten used to the additional company throughout the summer months.

Sometimes an animal’s anxiety can be misinterpreted for “boredom” in the house when in all actuality they are acting out due to fear and anxiety. The most severe of conditions can manifest in household destruction toward doors, sofas, baseboards and any other barrier type objects in the house. Less severe behaviors include pacing, whining or high pitched repetitive vocalization. These behaviors can start 30 minutes before departing and can be triggered by your routine at home. Some of these include putting on your coat, jingling your keys, and tying or putting on your shoes.

Hyper attachment is also a key factor to identify in your pet that may lead to a higher risk of separation anxiety.  This behavior may be present if your pet insists on following you to every room as you move around the house.  The first step in helping to reduce separation anxiety to discourage this hyper attachment behavior.  This includes encouraging the pet to settle down at a distance, not allowing the pet to sleep in the bed or potentially even in the same room and divide the care-giving of the pet between all family members.  Additionally, creating a positive environment in the home while you are away is beneficial. This can be achieved by giving your pet a special treat or toy only when left alone, add a “calming” pheromone diffuser such as Adaptil or Feliway in the room your pet spends most of their time in, as well as, leaving the TV or radio on softly.   In regards to changing your exit routine, somethings that can help is to fumble with your keys or put your shoes on and sit down on the couch. By changing your exit routine, this can desensitize your pet from picking up your exiting cues and become less anxious.

Additionally, if anxious behavior is severe enough, there are several anti-anxiety medications that can be administered to your pet to help medically calm their anxiety.  Talking with the veterinarians at The Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt can help determine if your pet is candidate that would benefit from pharmaceutical intervention.

If you have questions about your pet’s anxious behavior at home, do not hesitate to call and make a behavioral consultation appointment.


Dr. Smith

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