It’s almost back-to-school time and the post-holiday blues won’t spare anyone, not even our pet friends. Over the holidays, your dog or cat got used to you being around and to playing more with you. As you resume your everyday routine, your pet may experience stress, finding it difficult to cope with your extended absences again.
Understanding and recognizing the signs
The sense of distress is usually temporary and due to an abrupt change in routine. Dogs will be more likely to suffer from loneliness, while cats are more sensitive to changes in habits and environment. Separation anxiety can often be seen in troubled behaviour: destruction, barking, house soiling, listlessness, loss of appetite or even self-harm in the most severe cases (licking or scratching wounds).
How to prevent or solve the problem
To get your pet ready, re-establish a routine schedule of walks, meal times and activities (obedience training, games, cuddling) so as to ease them into the back-to-school period.
If your pet is hyper-attached and constantly seeks your attention, re-accustom him/her to being alone by gradually increasing the length of your absences. Avoid making a fuss before going out and coming back. While at home, get your pet used to having quiet times by ignoring his/her appeals, especially when these are barks or howls. No matter what, do not scold your pet, this is counterproductive and increases the stress he/she is already suffering from.
If your pet shows destructive behavior or inflicts lesions on him/herself, try to enrich his/her environment to keep him/her busy while you are away (favorite toys, DogTv, radio on, etc.) and increase the number of games or exercises while you are at home.
In the event of toilet accidents, do not reprimand and try instead to increase the frequency of your walks.
There are also pills, pheromone diffusers or collars that can help your pet better cope with stress.
If there is no clear improvement within fifteen days, check with your veterinarian, counsellor or behavioralist in order to begin supportive behavioral therapy and, if necessary, appropriate medical treatment.
Dr Vanessa Marmolejo, veterinarian
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