How to Help Dogs and Cats
Anxiety when their
Humans Return to Work & School
Animal shelters and breeders across the country have reported record numbers of dog and cat adoptions in recent months. A new companion helped make the months of COVID-19 isolation at home much less stressful.
But after one individual returned to work, he says his adorable kitten started urinating on the kitchen counter while he was away.
Another worried about how her dog will react when she returns to the office. Her big, goofy Labrador retriever follows her everywhere, even to the bathroom. When she leaves to run a quick errand, the dog sits by the back door and whines, awaiting her return.
What should these pet owners do?
A change in routine, such as suddenly being alone for many hours every day, is a major cause of separation anxiety for both dogs and cats.
Separation anxiety is more than a little whimpering when you head out the door. It’s major, unwanted behavior that happens every time you leave or are away. For dogs and cats, this can mean excessive pacing, barking or howling, whimpering or self-grooming as you get ready to leave. In some cases it can mean urinating or defecating around the house, often in places where scents linger, such as on bedding or rugs, or destroying household items in your absence. Extreme clinginess or neediness is another symptom.
Anxious pets can get destructive.
Separation anxiety won’t go away on its own, and it can be difficult to get rid of entirely. But there are ways to manage it. As a clinical veterinarian and professor, I am often asked to help people find ways to ease their pets’ anxiety.
What not to do First, it’s important to understand that it’s not about you – it’s about your pet. Your dog or cat is not trying to teach you a lesson or get revenge. Animals don’t act out of spite.
Instead, it’s a signal of extreme distress and frustration that should be approached like any other medical ailment. Your pet doesn’t want to experience separation anxiety any more than you want to experience its consequences.
For this reason, punishment is never the answer. For one thing, your pet won’t connect the punishment with something that happened hours – or even a few minutes – earlier. And punishment may only exacerbate your pet’s anxiety and stress.
Similarly, going to the opposite extreme by praising or giving affection when your pet is suffering anxiety also will make the problem worse.
The goal is to create a balanced relationship so your pet tolerates being alone. First, get your pet checked out by a veterinarian to rule out physical conditions, such as a urinary tract infection if your pet urinates in inappropriate places.
Next, make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. For dogs, this may mean a long run or brisk walk every day. Getting exercise shortly before you leave the house may put your dog in a more relaxed state while you’re gone. It’s harder to feel stressed when the endorphin levels are elevated. For cats, this could mean a change of environment by being outdoors in a safe, enclosed area such as a “catio.”
Treating separation anxiety with behavior change Here, we’re talking about your behavior. The goal is to make your absence seem like no big deal. Making a fuss over your pet when you leave or arrive home only makes matters worse. If you treat it like it’s routine, your pet will learn to do the same. Try to figure out when your pet starts to show signs of anxiety and turn that into a low-key activity. If it’s when you pick up your handbag, for example, practice picking it up and putting it back down several times over a few hours. Similarly, get dressed or put on your shoes earlier than usual but stay home instead of leaving right away. Try starting your car’s engine and then turning it off and walking back inside.
Avoiding drama around leaving for work can help pets acclimate to being alone Next, practice short absences. When you’re at home, make it a point to spend some time in another room. In addition, leave the house long enough to run an errand or two, then gradually increase the time that you’re away so that being gone for a full day becomes part of the family routine.
Changing the environment
Boredom makes separation anxiety worse. Providing an activity for your pet while you’re gone, such as a puzzle toy stuffed with treats, or simply hiding treats around the house will make your absence less stressful. Other options for dogs and cats include collars and plug-in devices that release calming pheromones.
To maintain your bond while you’re gone, place a piece of clothing that you have worn recently in a prominent place, such as on your bed or couch, to comfort your pet. Similarly, you can leave the TV or radio on – there are even special programs just for pets – or set up a camera so you can observe and interact with your pet remotely. Some of these come equipped with a laser pointer or treats you can dispense.
Using supplements or medication
In some severe cases, when the animal harms itself or causes property damage, medication or supplements might be necessary. These alter the brain’s neurotransmitters to create a sense of calm. While some are readily available without a prescription, it’s a good idea to get advice from your veterinarian to determine which are safest and most effective for your pet’s situation. Medication can help reduce the anxiety, making it easier for the pet to learn new coping skills. A behavior modification plan accompanying the use of medication can help manage this problem. Below are 6 common natural solutions
Separation anxiety is difficult for both you and your pet. But a few simple changes can make a huge difference as life returns to some semblance of normal. The above article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Lori M Teller, Texas A&M University.
The following is from Dogs Naturally Magazine
https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/6-natural-solutions-for-dog-anxiety/ 6 Natural Solutions For Dog Anxiety
#1 CBD Oil: The use of CBD oil is exploding (especially with dog owners) because of its many benefits It’s showing great results when used to manage dog anxiety.
To give it to your dog, follow the dosing instructions on the bottle. You can add it to your dog’s food or place it straight in her mouth.
#2 Herbs There are several herbs that can help soothe your dog’s anxiousness.
· Chamomile There’s a reason people drink chamomile before bed … it’s a gentle herb and a powerful sedative. It can help your dog relax and soothe her stomach when she’s nervous. Use it if your dog gets nervous in the car and gets car sick.
· St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) St John’s Wort is a safe, effective alternative to anti-depressant drugs. Use it for separation or fear-based anxiety (thunderstorms or fireworks).
#3 Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic remedies are effective because they target specific symptoms. They’re also very safe.
· Pulsatilla nigicans 6C or 30C
This remedy a good remedy for separation anxiety.
· Gelsemium 6C or 30C
Gelsemium is often used for separation anxiety. There may even be diarrhea or involuntary urination when under extreme stress with this dog.
#4 Bach Flower Essences
About 75 years ago, English physician Edward Bach made an exciting discovery. He found that the essence of certain flowers helps restore emotional balance. That makes them perfect for relieving stress and calming down an anxious dog. (It’s also good for your own stress too).
These remedies are gentle, non-toxic and can’t be overdosed. You can use individual essences that fit your dog’s specific fears or you can use Rescue Remedy. Rescue remedy is a pre-made blend of Bach Flower Remedies:
· Star of Bethlehem
· Rock Rose
· Cherry Plum
It can help in all kinds of stressful situations. Use it to relieve stress before going to the vet or the groomer. It’s also good for separation anxiety or for situations you know will cause fear.
The version that’s made for pets is preserved in glycerin, rather than brandy and is available at most health stores.
#5 Essential Oils Essential oils like lavender and violet leaf are great for calming anxiety. You can also try blending multiple oils. These blends are from aromatherapist Joy Musacchio:
1. Separation Anxiety: Neroli, Violet Leaf, Vetiver, Lavender, Rose hydrosol.
2. Fear of Thunder and Fireworks: Frankincense, Rose Otto, Hops, and Cornflower hydrosol.
3. General Anxiety: Frankincense, Violet Leaf, Linden Blossom, Roman Chamomile, Hemp.
For each recipe, combine 5 drops of each oil for a stock blend. When the recipe calls for a hydrosol, mix 5 drops of each oil into 2 oz of the hydrosol.
Spray the diluted oil on your dog’s bed or blanket or in the air. You can also use a diffuser but make sure your dog has a way to leave the room if the oils make her uncomfortable.
Caution: Never allow your dog to ingest oils in any way. Don’t ever use undiluted essential oils on your dog.
Essential oils are very powerful for dogs so hydrosols can be a much gentler option. Hydrosols are left over from the essential oil making process. They’re far less concentrated than the essential oils and considered safer for dogs.