Top tips for separation anxiety when COVID-19 lockdown ends

With the UK in lockdown, some pets will be enjoying the extra company at home. However, as lockdown restrictions start to ease and people return to their normal routines, pets may develop separation anxiety. If pets have become used to you being around 24/7 anxiety might occur when they are left alone during the day – even for short periods of time.

Separation anxiety in dogs can be shown in a variety of ways. This includes trembling, whining, destruction of property and sometimes aggression. Some pets will also hide in an enclosed safe place, such as under a table or bed.

Korina Stephens RVN from nutravet comments: "We all love spending time with our pets and during lockdown has been no different. However, when we return to normal our pets may not be able to cope with us not being around so much, especially if your pet is new to the family.

"Preparing in advance is a great way to get your pet used to when you return to work and eventually the family returns to their normal routine. Training them and allowing for time apart during the day will help to ease any anxiety that they may have."

To help prepare your pet for life after COVID-19 lockdown, we share some positive things you can do in advance and once you return to work:

Prepare in advance
Get your dog ready for post lockdown now by leaving the room for a while and get them used to you not being around. Either close the door to the room or use a stair gate. Build up the time you stay away each time and always return with a treat. Make sure other family members know to give them space to get them used to time alone.

Start a routine
Before the lockdown is lifted start getting your pet into a routine as if you would be back at work normally. Get ready for work and leave your dog in one room as you go to work in another. Leave them with enough to keep them busy and keep checking on them to make sure they’re not getting stressed. Getting them used to this routine will help to reduce stress when you have to eventually leave the home.

Make sure that your dog has enough toys to play with, which would be a great distraction whilst you are away. Stuffed toys with treats are a good way to keep them busy and happy during the time you are away.

Safe zone
Create a safe zone or den for your dog to retreat to if they are feeling extra anxious. You could leave a jumper or t-shirt with your smell on for your dog, which is familiar to them. This will help to comfort them while you are not there.

Reduce external noise
If you live on a main road and your dog could become stressed by external noise from the road, close curtains or blinds to try to block out any noise or distractions from anyone that may walk past. You could also leave the TV or radio on for background noise.

Outside time
Be sure to ensure they get time outside before you leave the house to ensure they have been to the toilet and had sufficient exercise. If you take them for a long walk in the morning, this may wear them out for the few hours you are away.

Don’t punish them
If you leave your dog and return to mess or destruction, don’t punish them as this could lead to them becoming worried about you returning.

Ask a friend of neighbour to check in on them
Once the lockdown has been lifted and you return to work, if it is safe to do so, ask a friend or neighbour to check on your pooch. If they are left for long periods during the day, getting someone to check on them will allow them time to go to the toilet if needed and enjoy some interaction during that time.

For cats
Most cats are quite happy to be left alone for most of the day but be sure to leave plenty of fresh water and access to a litter tray. If you have more than one cat it’s advised to have one litter tray for each pet. In a multi-pet household create high up places for your cat to retreat to, away from other pets. Cats tend to like to spend their day sleeping in a quiet safe place.

Consider using a calming supplement
Ask your vet for more information on additional ways to help your pet and how nutracalm can help to naturally reduce stress. nutracalm has been specially formulated by vets to naturally calm anxious pets and reduce unwanted or unruly behaviour.

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