Helping your pet to adjust after lockdown

Helping your pet to adjust after lockdown.

No matter how you feel about lockdowns, one positive aspect is that we’ve been able to spend more time at home with our beloved pets! Now, it’s wonderful to get back to our ‘normal’ lives, go out more often, leave the home to go to work and just generally not be around as much as before.

And while many pets have loved having their owners ‘on tap’ for all this time, some pets may have to do some adjusting of their own to the new status quo.

We had a chat to veterinary behaviorist, Dr Elsa Flint, who runs Animals With Attitude in Auckland, a specialist vet business that helps local Auckland pets owners with advice on animal behavioral problems, including diagnosis of potential medical issues. Dr Elsa has a wealth of experience dealing with separation anxiety in pets.

We asked her about what sorts of behaviors we might see when dogs are suddenly left at home for longer than they are used to. Dr Elsa explained, “Dogs do best when they have routine and predictability. Most dogs can cope with time alone if it is part of a daily routine and they are prepared for this from puppyhood with short periods of alone time in a safe space.

“Being left alone is potentially stressful for any dog. They are social animals and enjoy company. They become very bonded to their human companions. It is not fair to spend weeks with a dog alongside you 24/7 as has been the case in many lockdown situations and then to suddenly disappear, going back to work for an eight- hour day. Doing this may cause extreme anxiety and distress to the dog.

“This can present as barking and howling when you leave and intermittently during your absence. In some cases, destructive behaviour such as damaging doors in an attempt to get out and follow you or ripping up furniture or bedding as a displacement activity. If a dog gets extremely distressed it may even jump off a balcony or out of a window. A distressed dog will pant and salivate and may urinate and defecate inside.”

When it comes to cats, despite their self-sufficient reputation, Dr Flint said, “Cats may also get very bonded and can spend the day crying and wandering from room to room, looking for owners. Siamese and Burmese cats are more prone to separation anxiety than other breeds.”

If your pet is starting to display some of these sorts of issues, then Dr Elsa has some helpful advice for managing it: “If you are working from home and the dog is with you in your office, make a point of asking the dog to stay while you leave the room to get refreshments or go to the bathroom.

“Dogs must be prepared for alone time with short periods of separation, gradually extended over time. The best time to have the dog spend some time alone is after a walk. Give the dog a Kong toy or a long -lasting chew and leave them in an area that they would usually choose to rest in. Go out of sight for 10-15minutes while they enjoy the treat. Gradually extend time spent out of sight by ten minutes daily until the dog can settle for an hour while you are out of sight.

“Having relaxing music playing is helpful and pheromones (such as Adaptil) can also help the dog remain relaxed and settled.

“Now, start leaving in the car briefly while the dog is settled with his treat. Gradually extend the time spent away. Some dogs do better at day care than being left alone at home.”

For cats, she advises, “Cats may be better with a companion so get two kittens rather than one. In general cats cope better with separation from owners if they have a stimulating environment and are free to come and go.“

Dr Elsa notes, “Some animals that are not good at coping with stressful situations may need anti-anxiety medication to help them cope.“

As always, this advice is general, and it is always a good idea to talk to your vet about any worrying behaviours and the use of medications and/or pheromones as treatment. Keeping a close eye on our pets after periods of change is a good idea.

As loving pet owners we do all we can to keep our precious animals happy and healthy, and by taking steps such as the ones suggested above to manage their potential issues rather than putting it off can only mean you’re giving your pets the best care available.


How Petcover can help your pet

Petcover specialises in offering quality, straightforward pet insurance with a range of policy options that suit your needs. Whether your pet is big or small, our range of cover options are packed with added benefits. Accidents can happen at any time and the reality of veterinary costs can come a quite a shock. With our range of cover levels for dogscats, and horses why not get a quote today?