How to Calm your Pet’s COVID-Induced Separation Anxiety - Lilly Brush
Lilly Brush

How to Calm your Pet’s COVID-Induced Separation Anxiety

The average number of COVID-19 cases in the United States is decreasing every day now. With this comes new opportunities to venture out into the world once more (with safety precautions, of course)– but what happens to our pets now that the world is changing again? 

During the pandemic, many pets have become used to their humans being home all the time. At first, this was a good thing, as humans and animals were able to spend more quality bonding time together. However, now that the world has been in a pandemic for nearly a year, pets have become more dependent on the time they’ve been spending with their owners than they were before, hence causing high levels of separation anxiety when pet owners begin to leave the house more often. 

For some pet owners, something as simple as leaving the house to go to the grocery store has triggered severe separation anxiety in house pets who’ve become used to the constant presence of their caretaker. As the world begins to heal from the pandemic, and move forward, we must ensure we look out for our pets, and guide them through the changes that are taking place and that are still yet to come. 

What causes separation anxiety? 

While it’s not fully understood why some dogs are more prone to separation anxiety than others, there are indicators that suggest a higher chance of the anxiety showing up: 

  • Puppies: Due to their young and impressionable phase of life, puppies might develop a more severe attachment to their caretaker. Thankfully, catching separation anxiety at an earlier point in your pup’s life is easier to treat. 
  • Dogs with pre-existing behavioral conditions: If your dog is already prone to any sort of behavioral conditions, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for any signs of separation anxiety. 
  • Recently adopted pets: As a newly adopted pet has a past which will remain mostly unknown to you, it’s important to be extra sensitive and aware of what might trigger your pet. 

If you have been a work-from-home pet owner for the past year, it’s important to take the following precautions to ensure the well-being of your beloved pet if you know you’ll be heading back to the office soon. Beginning to prepare your pet a few weeks prior to returning to work is ideal. 

How to treat separation anxiety: 

  • Exposure therapy: Leaving your pet at home for short periods of time, then gradually increasing the amount of time your pet is left alone for, will acquaint your pet with your periodic absence. Eventually, he or she will start becoming used to these increments of time when you’re out of the house. 
  • Give your pet a treat or toy: Giving your dog a treat or toy will give them something to focus on in your absence. Toys like this puzzle toy are calming, stimulate your pet’s mind, and keep him or her occupied for long periods of time. 
  • Create a safe and calming environment: If your pet has the type of separation anxiety in which he or she causes mass chaos and destruction to anything in their path, try designating an accident-free zone where your pet can feel at peace. This could be any room with the least amount of furniture and/or fragile house decor, or any room you transform into such. The goal is to keep your pet safe and comfortable, while also protecting your home. 
  • Leave your recently worn clothes: The pheromones from an article of clothing produce a calming effect, making your dog feel like you are close. 
  • Pet camera: If you are unsure whether your pet has separation anxiety, or if you have suspicions that they do but you’ve been unable to identify it, try purchasing a pet camera in order to keep an eye on them throughout the day. Many pets will not exhibit the true nature of their distress until their owner has already left the house.