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Is your dog experiencing separation anxiety?

With lockdown over and many pet owners changing their working arrangements and returning to an office, there is understandably some concern about how our pets, who have gotten so used to having us at home, will cope with another shift in the household routine.

Although many pets will adjust to a new routine at home, some sadly will not be able to cope with their owners leaving them alone when they do return to work and may suffer from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is one of the most common, yet most underdiagnosed behavioural problems in dogs. Some estimates suggest up to 1 in 5 dogs will suffer from separation anxiety.

Pets with separation anxiety experience distress when they cannot be with their family. These dogs are anxious and are not “acting out” or trying to spite their owners, they are unable to cope and having a hard time as a result. Separation anxiety can take a big toll on pets and owners. Fortunately, as veterinarians, we can offer ways to manage this problem and improve a pet’s quality of life.

Signs of separation anxiety can include:

- loud, repetitive barking, whining or howling

- destruction, for example, a dug up garden, torn-up house, scratched doors

- urination, defecation, drooling

- lack of interest in food being left with your pet

You may also notice some signs of distress as you prepare to leave the house. Your dog may begin to bark, scratch, pant or freeze before you have even left, as they have learnt to associate your actions with being left behind at home.

If you notice any of these signs, booking a consultation is the first step for us to help you and your pet. We can discuss what you are noticing or concerned about further to figure out if your pet does have separation anxiety and come up with a tailored plan to help them.

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