Pets' Separation Difficulties After The Pandemic: What To Do?

Many people know the clinical picture as "separation anxiety". According to experts, however, anxiety is a pre-established pathological condition, therefore it cannot be framed in the subject in question.

It is common knowledge that pets, especially dogs, are extremely attached and dependent on their human parents. However, what many people are unaware of is that these attachment issues can trigger behaviors mainly related to their separation — a state of feeling where the animal suffers so much with the departure of its owner, that it ends up developing a destructive behavior as a response, such as scratching doors, destroying objects, barking or howling in large quantities, urinating and defecating around the house (including trained dogs) and, in some cases, harming themselves. These are situations that are often interpreted by the pet owners as normal or as a kind of “needy instinct to call attention”, when in fact they need to be treated with a specialist.

With the Coronavirus pandemic, many companies have opted for sending their workers to the home office, as a consequence, animals have spent more time with their owners. When this anomalous phase comes to an end and workers are sent back to the offices, it is agreed among specialists in canine behavior that the diagnoses of separation anxiety, along with the highly progression of the disease due to social isolation with its owners, will increase significantly, especially among the following types of dog:

  • Dogs adopted during the pandemic, which have never spent many hours alone
  • Dogs that have already done treatments for separation anxiety, or that had it in mildly condition
  • Dogs that suffer severe changes in routine due to lack of preparation of the owners  
  1. 1. Expert Tip

    In an interview with Her Campus, the PhD in veterinary and specialist in the behavior of dogs and cats, Luiza Cervenka shared some of her knowledge on how to solve this issue. According to her, "respecting the animal's space, teaching it to stay in its corner without disturbing it, and promoting situations in which it is alone, such as when gnawing something or having a toy that distracts it", are situations that would alleviate the impact of the end of quarantine days on the pet’s mental health. As reinforced by her, the tutor should test different types of interferences, giving as an example: "it is important that at some point in the day the tutor isolates himself in some room in the house, leaving the dog outside doing something he likes".

    When she was asked about the right way to deal with an animal that already has this mental state, even if they are not considered components of a disease, the professional emphasized: “it is important to find a veterinarian or an animal behavioral specialist, so that they are understood the reasons behind the reported issues. They are not in all cases, but the use of psychotropic drugs or tranquilizers should be considered by professionals, taking into account that they should always be linked to stimulation of environmental enrichment and behavioral modulation on the part of tutors”.

  2. 2. Some behaviors that should be considerated by the pet parents

    - Avoid very dramatic goodbyes, which the animal associates with suffering — cut the direct contact with the pet about 15 minutes before leaving the house. It is also important to not express excitement when you see him at the moment of your return.

    - Make "test trips": very short trips that only serve to show the dog that you will return after leaving the house. Also, put on clothes you usually wear on the street, change your shoes, pick up keys... and stay at home! With that, the animal will get used to the owner's actions before his exits.

    - Exercise the animal before leaving the house, so that the tiredness will distract the animal from the fact of being alone, resulting in the control of stress.

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This article was edited by Thays Avila

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