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Does your pet have separation anxiety?

Here are the warning signs – and how you can help your furry friend feel calm and happy.

Golden retriever pining for her owner

Does any of the following sound familiar?

  • Your pet destroys clothing, furniture or its bedding while you are away.
  • Your housetrained pet urinates or defaecates inside.
  • Your neighbour complains of barking while you are away.
  • Your pet tries to escape through excessive digging or scratching.
  • Your pet clings to you panting or whining by your side when you return.

Anxiety or stress can be extremely debilitating and render a pet susceptible to emotional and health problems. Separation anxiety is one of the more common forms of anxiety, and occurs when a pet is separated from their owner.

During this time of stress, a frenzied pet may try anything to get you back. Typical signs of separation anxiety include barking, panting, chewing, inappropriate toileting, escaping, digging or scratching.

While the causes of separation anxiety are not fully understood, it is apparent that genetics and environmental factors play a role. A change in ownership, being left alone longer than usual, a relocation to a new house or the loss of a household member are common causes.

“Training your pet to sit calmly and rewarding them for relaxed behaviour is essential to managing separation anxiety.”

How to help a pet with separation anxiety

There is a range of effective management techniques that can help pets reach a relaxed state. These range from exercise, training to behaviour-modifying methods.

Here are a few things you can try:

  • Play music or keep the television on when left alone.
  • Provide chew toys or food contraptions to help distract them when alone.
  • Exercise your pet first thing in the morning and straight after work.
  • Hire a professional pet walker.
  • Restrict the area your pet has to roam as this can help them to feel more secure.
  • Leave an item of clothing on its bed as a comforter.
  • Use scents such as Lavender oil or Dog Appeasing Pheromone as a calming agent.

Avoid making a fuss when you leave or return home, only giving attention when they are in a calm state. Do not reward behaviours such as jumping up, pawing or whining. Training your pet to sit calmly and rewarding them for relaxed behaviour is essential to managing separation anxiety.

Your veterinarian may also prescribe behavioural-modifying medications as you navigate through these management techniques.

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