Pandemic Pets | Behavioral Change Part 1
Preventing Separation Distress During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic Our pets are family members, and during the pandemic so many pet owners have been at home with their pets more than ever before. Spending most of our time together can increase the human-animal bond, deepen our relationship with our pets, and connect pet owners with the veterinary team in ways we never predicted. One prediction we can make though, is that as we return to work and life outside the home after this period of constant connection, our pets may be at risk for developing or displaying signs of separation distress.
What is separation distress? Separation distress, or separation anxiety, means the pet experiences a feeling of anxiety or even panic when they are separated from preferred people. The signs most commonly associated with this disorder include vocalizing, salivation, destructive behavior especially at exits like doors and windows, urination or defecation indoors/in unwanted locations, lack of appetite when alone, self-trauma like licking or chewing when alone, and attempted or successful escapes. In severe cases, pets may even break through fences or windows, chew through walls or doors, and engage in other dangerous behavior when they are feeling panic. Often, the signs of anxiety such as pacing, panting, jumping up on the owner or attention-seeking, avoiding confinement areas, or trying to escape begin when the owner first starts preparing to leave home (brushing teeth, picking up keys, lacing up shoes, etc.). If your pet is showing the signs listed here, tell your veterinary team right away. A doctor’s diagnosis is needed to confirm separation distress or separation anxiety disorder. The good news is, there is a lot we can do to help prevent separation distress, and to treat it if it occurs.
How can I meet the needs of my pets? Pets need their daily needs met in order to remain both physically and mentally healthy. Of course, proper nutrition, medical care, and grooming/husbandry are at the top of the list. Some other crucial daily needs of companion animals: