Although many of us are not thrilled with the recent changes to our routines, workplaces, and lifestyles thanks to the statewide Stay-at-Home order. Pets, on the other hand, are probably thrilled with the sudden increase in family time. But what happens when parents return to work and kids go back to school?

Separation anxiety in pets is a common, and serious, problem that can lead to extremely disruptive behavior issues. The issue becomes even more glaring for those pets who were adopted during this period and have never known their new life without all of their family members around all day. 

The transition from a day full of activity to being left alone can range from mildly challenging to full-on heartbreaking, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Our suggestions aim to help your whole family, both two-legged and four, cope gracefully and successfully with the changes that will inevitably come.

Back to Normal?

One day the house is filled with people and bustling with activity. And suddenly the next day, the place is empty and quiet. Older pets that have been with the family for years may be accustomed to the kids going back to school each fall, but younger or newer pets can have a hard time grappling with the sudden loss of attention and activity. 

Pets are creatures of habit, and may need some help handling the change. The days and weeks leading up to the start of work/school is the perfect time to slowly acclimate your pet to their new routine by implementing longer and longer stretches of time away from them.

A Family Affair

Getting the whole family involved is critical when it comes to helping your pet overcome separation anxiety. Encourage everyone in the home to pay extra attention to your pet (petting, snuggles, praise) before leaving for the day and in the evening. Additionally:

  • Make sure your pet gets exercise each day, ideally before you leave and after you return. Remember, a tired pet is a happy, and much better behaved, pet. Daily exercise should be non-negotiable. 
  • Mental stimulation is important. Provide toys and food puzzles such as a Kong (fill it with peanut butter and freeze for a longer lasting treat) to play with while you’re away.
  • Enlist the help of a dog walker, friend, or neighbor to come by and walk or play with your pet during the day.
  • Crate trained pets may feel more comfortable in their crates while they are home alone.
  • Make sure your home is pet-proofed before you leave. Cover trash bins, store all food, medications, cleaning supplies, and potted plants out of reach.

Never scold or punish your pet for separation anxiety-related bad behavior. This will only make things worse. If you are having trouble, please don’t hesitate to contact your Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital team.

A pet that is displaying behaviors such as house soiling, destructive chewing or digging, excessive barking/yowling while you’re away, or seems depressed may need professional support. We are here for you!