Establishing and maintaining a pet’s daily routine is one of the best things you can do for their mental and physical health. The ability to anticipate the timing of certain events like bathroom breaks, meals, or walks gives them stability and confidence, and helps to build trust at home. Sometimes a pet’s profound attachment to their owner, combined with unsettling solitude, can lead to separation anxiety. Dealing with separation anxiety in pets can be challenging, but there are special strategies to soothe a pet’s symptoms.
Separation anxiety in pets can develop suddenly or creep in over time. The important thing is to get help as soon as you notice symptoms. Left alone, anxiety can turn into a chronic condition or a phobia that impacts meaningful social connections with people and other household pets.
When an owner has to leave for work, school, or errands, a pet can naturally feel left out. If they haven’t developed the skills to trust in their owner’s return, or cope with their own company, separation anxiety can lead to the following behaviors:
- Excessive vocalizations like howling, whining, barking, or meowing
- Scratching at the exit door
- Heavy salivation
- Excessive self-grooming
- Inappropriate soiling
- Escape attempts that lead to injury or destruction of property
- Hairballs or vomiting
- Social withdrawal or hiding
These symptoms are unlikely to resolve on their own. Giving a pet time to get used to their owner’s departure and extended absence will not soothe or reverse symptoms of pet separation anxiety.
Separation Anxiety in Pets
The best place to start is by taking an inventory of any changes around the house. Any shifts to a pet’s routine can lead to or worsen symptoms of separation anxiety. Make adjustments to timing of events and help them get as much exercise as possible. A tired pet is generally a happier one.
Secondly, consider their personality or temperament. If they are sort of nervous, excitable, or sensitive to some stimuli, separation anxiety may be unsurprising. Also, think about any previous experiences that could explain how they feel when left alone.
The Right Steps
Before we can address behavior, it is a good idea to rule out medical conditions that cause similar symptoms. Once your pet is examined and cleared, we can determine an effective treatment plan for separation anxiety that may include:
- Increased exercise
- Mental stimulation
- A highly structured routine
- Crate training
- Behavioral training
- Increased socialization
Supporting Behavioral Problems
To give your pet the best chance of improving, do not reward any symptoms or pet anxiety. When you leave and arrive home, it is helpful to remain as neutral as possible. Refrain from showing too much excitement or concern.
The failure to address symptoms or provide them with support can inhibit their ability to cope and connect with you. If your pet’s behavioral plan isn’t working, we may discuss the possibility of medication.
Please call us at (732) 531‑1212 with any questions or concerns about your pet’s health and behavior.