Having to report back to work especially if you have been given short notice will be hard on your pets. If your fur baby has got used to getting constant attention from you, a sudden change naturally could cause them to feel upset.
Pets suffer from separation anxiety and this could become an issue in the long run if nothing is done. But there are ways of helping them to cope with this anxiety and taking some steps in the right direction can restore normalcy for them.
First let’s take a look at some signs of a stressed pet.
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How to Recognize Stress in Pets
Pets are perfectly capable of recognizing our patterns and behavior and take their cue from you. For instance, the jingling sound of a leash and tying up your shoelaces mean that you are going to take them out for a walk.
Packing your bag or dressing up indicates that you are going to leave them and go somewhere. They can start whimpering and whining or will simply lie at your feet and seek your attention to indicate that something is wrong.
Hearing them jump on the door that you close behind you and pawing at the window when you leave your home are surely tell-tale signs. Here are some other signs that will indicate that your furry friend is definitely under stress.
• Pacing or shaking – Of course you’ve seen your pet shake after their bath or play and roll in the grass outside. While a shake is absolutely normal and can be quite cute and fun it can also happen when they are under stress. Like people, pets show fear and pace around a room if they are stressed.
• Whining - Pets who are afraid, tensed or stress may whine to get your attention or it could be a gesture of self soothing.
• Yawning, drooling or licking – We all love to see that cute yawn when our pets are bored and tired but they also yawn when they are stressed. You will be able to make out the difference between a stressful yawn from a sleepy yawn in the sense that it is more intense and prolonged. Dogs also lick excessively and drool when they are nervous.
• Change in body posture – A pet who is normal and happy will usually like to be on all four paws but when they shift their weight to the rear legs they may be exhibiting signs of stress. When they are scared they may keep their tail between their legs and their body can become rigid.
• Shedding - If you notice that your pet has been losing a lot of fur, you should know that shedding increases when a pet is anxious. This means that they are nervous and scared.
• Changes in eyes and ears - Similar to humans, pets can have dilated pupils and will rapidly blink. If you notice that their eyes are wide open and they look startled, it means they are anxious. When they are happy and relaxed their ears are generally alert and free but if they are pinned back against their head then they may be scared.
• Excessive panting - If it is not hot and you haven’t just taken them out for a long run, but your pet is excessively panting it could be a sign that they are stressed.
• Change in bodily functions – Just like people, pets who are stressed will feel an increased urge to go to the bathroom. If they refuse to eat food or lose their appetite, this is another indicator that something is not right and they could be anxious.
• Escape behavior- Have you noticed that your pet is constantly trying to hide or ignoring you completely by engaging in other activities? It could be them chewing on your belongings, the furniture, door frames or windows. This could be a way of self soothing and they could be trying to find a way to escape how they really feel.
Ways in Which You Can Help Your Pet Adjust
Even though separation anxiety is the natural response of your pet, once you learn to recognize their behavior, you can take steps that will help them overcome this. Here are some things that you can do to help them adjust to your new routine.
• Desensitize - A good rule of thumb is to train your pet to adjust to your absence. Use positive commands and train them to sit and stay while you are away. Try and leave them for short periods of time and then increase your absence slowly. When you leave them and return, they get used to the idea of being alone and also learn how to cope with your absence. They come to realize that you will ultimately return.
• Take them for a walk or run - Try engaging your pet in a long walk, run or even a game of fetch before you leave for work. This will help them release some of that pent up energy and it will get them physically tired as well as allow them to relieve some of their stress and anxiety. An added advantage is that it will allow bonding-time for the both of you!
• Try engaging them with an activity - Getting them a new chew toy or an interactive puzzle is a great way to engage your fur baby and keep them busy. However, make sure that you do not give them something that can easily break into pieces or something that could be a choking hazard. It is also important that you leave them in an area that is safe for them to roam about freely.
• Use familiar and calming scents - Pets learn to recognize your personal scent and leaving your clothes near them will remind them of you. This could give them some comfort. Other than this, you can also opt for dog-appeasing pheromones that are used in dog collars for instance, which has a calming effect on dogs.
• Create a safe place for your pet - Do not leave your pet in an un-familiar environment. Always ensure that there is a window, adequate light and enough toys to keep them busy while you are away.
• Hire a dog walker - A good idea is to hire a dog walker during the day in case you think that your pet will benefit from going out for a bit during the day as well. Pets with high energy need to find a release every few hours and this could be a good way for them to cope with your absence.
• Have your neighbor check on them - If your neighbor lives close to your home, or if you live in an apartment or condo, you can always ask them for a favor and have them check on your pet while you are away. They can also simply keep an eye out and listen to any excessive vocalizations from your pet. This will help you to gauge how your pet is coping and will lead you to taking steps in the right direction.
• Seek help from a pet daycare - A pet daycare can be one of the best options for your pet to deal with separation anxiety. Attending a daycare will set a routine for them, help with mental stimulation and physical exercise as well. Pet daycares are especially recommended for younger puppies and high energy pets as older ones can manage their feelings and energy in a better way.
• Use calming medication or supplements - In case of severe anxiety, experts recommend that you should use calming medication. You can contact your local veterinarian and get the necessary treatment for your pet.
What Not To Do
While there are certain steps that you can take to help them with stress and anxiety, you should also keep in mind some factors that will not help them in any way and only make the problem worse. These are as follows.
• Getting another pet - If you think that getting another companion for your pet will help your anxious fur baby; this will not make any difference. Their anxiety is caused as a result of being separated from you and not because they are alone!
• Punishment - You should not punish your pet in order to treat their separation anxiety and stress. In fact it will only make the situation worse.
• Crating - Leaving them in a crate will not help them in any way, as they can still express their anxiety inside. They will defecate, urinate, howl or try to escape and this might result in injury. Instead try and create a safe place for them.
• Television or radio noise - Leaving the television or radio on will not help your anxious and stressed pet in any way. This will not serve as a distraction.
• Obedience training - While it is important to train your bet, separation anxiety is not caused because of disobedience or the lack of training so it will not work in this case.
Getting over their anxiety and helping your pet to adjust may be difficult, but it is not impossible. If you feel that you have tried but your pet is not adjusting at all, you may want to consider the services of a behavioral specialist. When you take the correct steps, your pet will be happy and relaxed once again!