PetSmart animal behavior specialist shares how pet parents can identify separation anxiety and help their pets overcome these challenges
PHOENIX, May 20, 2021 – After more than a year of quarantining and bonding with their pet parents during the pandemic, many pets are now experiencing separation anxiety as Americans spend less time at home. Whether pet parents are planning to return to the office or go on a summer vacation, Crista Coppola, Ph.D., PetSmart’s consulting Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), says that identifying and managing separation anxiety in pets can go a long way to easing the transition back to regular activities for pets and pet parents alike.
New pets adopted during the pandemic may be more susceptible to separation anxiety, but any pet can experience it. All pet parents should be on the lookout for symptoms and be prepared to help pets address them.
“It’s crucial for pet parents to understand their dog is struggling, and their behaviors are coping mechanisms they can’t necessarily control,” Coppola said. “The first step to understanding your pet is to observe their behavior and determine whether or not separation anxiety is the cause.”
Identifying the Symptoms
Separation anxiety can manifest itself in pets in different ways and as a result, can cause various behavioral responses. Excessive barking and whining, destructive behaviors like shoe and furniture chewing, accidents around the home, and other unusual behaviors like hypersalivation, pacing, or decreased appetite can all be signs of separation anxiety.
“You don’t know how your pet is reacting when you’re gone, unless you have some way to monitor them,” said Coppola. She recommends pet parents set up a pet camera like the Wyze Pet Camera to monitor their pet’s behavior when they’re gone and identify symptoms.
Preparing Pets for the Inevitable
Once pet parents rule out any underlying health conditions with their veterinarian and determine their pet is experiencing separation anxiety, Coppola recommends adjusting pets’ routines by taking short trips outside of the home without their pet – even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
“Grab your phone, put on your shoes and shake your keys at times other than when you are leaving, and don’t make a big deal about leaving and coming home,” she said. “Let your pup know you’re leaving but come back shortly after, and when you arrive home, say hello and give your pup a chance to settle before engaging in fun activities.”
Help Your Pet Feel Safe Alone
Next, Coppola recommends creating a cozy, pet-safe zone, equipped with puzzle toys, chews and bones to keep pets occupied while they are alone. Pet parents can use calming aids to help, like the Thundershirt that applies gentle pressure that can soothe dogs, and the Adaptil Calming Collar, which mimics dog calming pheromones that signal to your dog that they’re safe and secure.
Keep Your Pet Mentally and Physically Stimulated
In between trips away from home, Coppola recommends engaging your pet with physical and mental activities like play time, games and puzzles, which can help fulfill pets and keep them happy even when you’re gone. Mentally stimulating training courses like Brain Games™ for Dogs can help pets feel mentally, physically and emotionally fulfilled and can even help you build a stronger bond. Doggie Day Camp is also a great option to ensure pets are in expert care and socialized while pet parents are away.
“The bottom line is routines are helpful for most pets and even a vacation or a weekend away can disrupt their routine, making pets more susceptible to separation anxiety,” Dr. Coppola said. “As pet parents and pet lovers, it is important to understand how we can prioritize our pets’ mental health and how we can provide them with the tools they need to cope with change now and in the future.”
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PetSmart LLC is the largest specialty pet retailer of services and solutions for the lifetime needs of pets. At PetSmart, we love pets, and we believe pets make us better people. Every day with every connection, PetSmart’s passionate associates help bring pet parents closer to their pets so they, together, can live more fulfilled lives. This vision impacts everything we do for our customers, the way we support our associates and how we give back to our communities.
PetSmart operates approximately 1,650 pet stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, as well as more than 200 in-store PetSmart PetsHotel® dog and cat boarding facilities. The retailer provides a broad range of competitively priced pet food and products, as well as services such as dog training, pet grooming, pet boarding, PetSmart Doggie Day Camp™ and pet adoption.
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