Separation Anxiety: How To Manage Your Pet’s Mental Health As Post-Containment Routines Resume Pets

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When Melburnian Anni O’Donnell came home from work, her sausage dog, Ziggy, would be delighted to see her. Since the lockdown, however, “he’s crying and squirming for a good five minutes.”

“He does this even for short periods of time, like a five-minute visit to the stores,” O’Donnell said.

“I was already worried about leaving him for long periods of time before Covid but now I’m so used to him by my side it’s weird without him. I have the guilt of knowing he has worse separation anxiety in addition to missing him.

Three-year-old Ziggy is one of many ‘pandemic puppies’ struggling with separation anxiety as lockdown restrictions loosen and their owners return to the office and socialize more, leading to increased demand of health and welfare products for pets.

Greencross Vets veterinarian Dr Lucy Asher said she has seen many pandemic puppies who have never been left alone or never learned independence, prompting pet owners to look to themselves. turn to the market for help.

“There are also a lot of dogs who were happy to be left alone but adapted to the constant presence of owners,” she said.

“We are also seeing an increase in aggression due to the lack of socialization during the critical period of socialization instead of puppy classes.”

Last year, $ 269.8 million has been devoted to alternative health treatments for dogs – including acupuncture and massage. Today, anti-anxiety and calming products such as “relaxer care” treats, home diffusers, on-the-go necklaces and “thunder shirts” are flooding the market.

Australian retailer Petbarn has seen a 59% increase in purchases of anxious and calming products since Victoria came out of lockdown, and a 51% increase since New South Wales came out of restrictions.

High-tech communication options are also being promoted to help dogs deal with separation anxiety on their own. A new product – called DogPhone – uses a soft ball which, when moved, allows dogs to call their owners from home.

Australian Veterinary Association spokesperson Dr Isabelle Resch said managing companion animal mental health would be an “ongoing problem” as people return to work and socialize.

“Young puppies are not used to having periods of separation, and it can be a difficult transition to have an owner at home 24/7 and be at work more than 40 hours a week. “she said. “This is probably an ongoing and potentially growing problem. “

A spike in Australians looking for pets during shutdowns has also helped the pet care industry grow. Some 69% of Australian households now own at least one pet, largely due to an increase in the number of dog owners over the past two years. This, combined with a tendency to “Humanization of pets”- where furry friends are considered family – has seen pet spending skyrocket over the past five years.

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Pet health and wellness products have been a booming industry since before the start of the pandemic. But Covid-induced lockdowns seeing more pet parents working from home have led to even more market growth, especially for gourmet meals and sweets.

Animal Medicines Australia estimated that dog owners spent $ 20.5 billion on their pets during the pandemic, while cat owners spent $ 10.2 billion.

IBISWorld forecasts while spending on pets keep going up in the coming years, competition will also intensify, due to increased demand for high quality pet food and preventative health drugs for increasingly spoiled pets.

O’Donnell said that since Covid, Ziggy had become a regular at the pet store and was “desperate” to enter whenever she and her partner walked past.

“I would say I go there once a fortnight to recharge,” she said. “Is my dog ​​spoiled?” Absoutely.”

Dr Sarah Zito, senior scientist at RSPCA Australia, said the dramatic changes in routine blockages could be “stressful” or “confusing” for dogs who are not used to being left alone, especially for dogs. puppies purchased during the pandemic.

Here are some expert tips to help pandemic puppies cope with separation:

  • Recognize that your dog will be spending more time alone, so gradually teach him independent time. Start with five to 10 minutes with a delicious treat and slowly increase your distance with the dog and the time he is left alone. Some dogs will be better able to cope than others – genetics play an important role in their propensity for anxiety.

  • When you leave the house and come home, stay calm and quiet to make the occasion as boring as possible. This teaches dogs that there is nothing to get excited about or worry about.

  • Use puzzles and food treats that take time to eat – try to associate them with departures from your home.

  • Consider using a doggy day care or homemaker during the transition to work.

  • Slow down the return from work home everyday to work in the office full time, and try changing your routine around the house to look like what going back to work or school will be like. This means feeding, exercising, and grooming your dog on a similar schedule.

  • When dogs are alone, offer them a special treat to keep them occupied and create positive associations with it, such as toys that are safe to cuddle, play with, or chew on.

  • If the animals are not transitioning well, see a veterinarian to manage their behavior, as they may need medication to reduce anxiety. Signs of stress include washing in the house, yelling, barking or whining, destruction, and excessive drooling or panting.


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