We chat with celebrity veterinarian Dr. Katrina Warren on ways you can care for your pet and adjust back to post pandemic life.
As many Australians have now returned back to a full lifestyle, of working longer hours and being away from home, PetSafe®Australia is currently running a campaign in April, urging pet owners to follow some simple tips on ways to care for your pet and help prepare their fur-babies adjust back to life whilst your not at home.
Life is ever changing. And for most of us born after 1970, the worst global crisis we have ever lived through was when the financial market crashed world-wide. And even then some of us were too young to really understand those effects.
Jump twelve years into the future and we then found ourselves in a global pandemic. Working from home, not working at all. Studying from home, both with school and uni. As our lives rapidly changed within 24-hours of the lockdown in 2020, so did the lives of all our pets.
We seldom remember when a significant event impacts our lives, it also impacts the lives of the animals around us as well. Especially for our little fur babies at home.
Speaking from personal experience, my cat went from hardly having me at home at all, to being home every day, and then back to hardly being at home again. As his anxiety peaked with me no longer being at home, so did mine. I stressed about his wellbeing, hoping he was okay when I wasn’t home. And finding myself getting back home as quick as I could so I could to be with him and make sure he was okay.
And I’m not the only one. During the past year, pets have become dependant on their owners being home 24/7. But as some of us start to return to life post-pandemic, our pets are at risk of suffering from separation anxiety – again. For dogs in particular, this can be a potentially debilitating and destructive psychological condition that is thought to affect one in every four to six dogs.
PetSafe®Australia has partnered with Australian vet and TV presenter Dr. Katrina Warren to develop six simple tips that can help make the transition back to our daily schedules easier for you and your furry loved ones.
Dr. Katrina has loved animals since she was a little girl, and always dreamt of becoming a veterinarian. These days, she is directing that passion towards helping people enhance their special bond with pets, through behaviour and training advice.
“Any animal that bonds closely to a human can experience anxiety when they are suddenly separated,” shares Dr. Katrina. “However, dogs bond very closely to humans and seem to suffer the most.”
Cases of separation anxiety in dogs are expected to rise as we begin to return to the office. But how can you tell if your dog is doing it tough? “There are a few signs that quickly hint to us that a dog is anxious,” says Dr. Katrina.
So, how can we help our pets be less anxious?
Dr. Katrina says there are several products on the market which may help an anxious pet – such a synthetic pheromones, anxiety wraps and supplements. Some pets may require anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your vet, depending on the level of anxiety your pet is going through.
“Dogs with separation anxiety become extremely stressed when separated from their guardian. This can manifest in a variety of behavioural issues, for example, barking and howling, a change in toilet habits and destructive behaviours like chewing and digging.”
All of these things can be costly for you – not to mention exhausting for your neighbours – and the added stress for pets and their human parents alike is not needed.
“More serious signs of separation anxiety can include loss of appetite, hiding in corners, panting or whining or trembling,” advises Dr. Katrina, “and might require your vet’s support to manage.”
If you are concerned about your pet’s behaviour, then seeking professional advice is the way to go.
For other pet’s, where the symptoms may not seem that bad, you can use natural and alternative ways to help entertain your pet when you are not home.
Here are Dr. Katrina’s five top tips for managing your pet’s anxiety when you’re away from home.
- Increase exercise!
Make sure your dog has a decent walk or gets some energetic exercise before you leave for the day. A tired dog has less energy to be anxious and destructive. If you have a cat who lives in doors, make sure you have played with them enough to burn off excess energy before you leave for the day.
- Leave a challenging treat
Just as you’re leaving, give your dog a chewy treat that will take his or her mind off your departure. Treat-dispensing toys are the perfect solution as they can occupy dogs for hours as they work to get the treats. For a cat, try a cat toy where you can hide treats in it and then place it somewhere in your home so your cat can search it out during the day.
- Keep calm on your departure and return
Don’t make a big fuss when you are leaving the house or coming home. Stay calm and emotionless. If your dog gets excited and jumps all over you when you arrive home, ignore them and walk away calmly. Greet them only when they have calmed down.
Surprisingly enough, cats can be just as anxious when you leave and when you return. It helps when they see you leave the house, especially if they are sleeping, so they know you have left. Cats who sleep when you leave and wake whilst no one is home can get very anxious and start destroying furniture.
- Create a dedicated ‘doggy or cat den’
This is a safe space where your dog can always go and know they won’t be disturbed. It could be a kennel, a pen, a crate or their bed area – whatever you use, it’s a spot they can always retreat to relax and feel safe. Get puppies used to these areas from the time you bring them home by encouraging them have their chew toys there and sleep there.
Cats love boxes and other great places to hide. Especially if they are indoor cats. Make sure you create spaces around your home, where the cat can go hide throughout the day and feel safe. Leave small toys there so they can play them whilst in their safe places.
- Find a pet sitter
Leaving your dog with a friend, relative or a dog-sitter is a great option. Of course, this option doesn’t work as much for a cat, unless you have a family or friend who lives nearby and you can have them pop in to check on them. Of course, if your cat has access to being outdoors then this is probably irrelevant.