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How to help your pet to be home alone again after Covid-19 quarantine: 5 tips

Many of our pets have enjoyed the extra time that they have had with their owners during the Covid-19 restrictions. As the lockdown is lifting, it is important to remember that your pet(s) will not understand a sudden change in routine. If your dog has spent time at home alone previously with no problems, then they may adjust back to ‘normal’ life without any problems. However, many pets will need preparation and time for this adjustment. It is important to ensure that you help your pet to make the transition back to spending time at home alone again. Dog owners in particular should provide the necessary planning for their furry friends.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

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Our advice for a making gentle transition out of Covid-19 lockdown for pets:

  1. Start small - we recommend starting off slowly. Instead of starting with a full day, start by leaving the room for only a few minutes at a time. Slowly increase this to hours and then increase the number of hours. Make these changes gradually over several weeks, if possible
  2. Young dogs - most puppies or young dogs will not have experienced being left alone before. It is, therefore, especially important to start very slowly with the home-alone short-training intervals. Boarding kennels or day care facilities may be able to help, especially during the transition towards being left at home during the day
  3. Fresh air and exercise - make sure your dog has been out for exercise or mentally stimulated before being left alone for a period of time. A tired and satisfied dog is less likely to experience separation anxiety
  4. Start with a few changes - for indoor cats, it may be a good idea to build up to time alone incrementally. This may be especially important if you have very social cats, or cats that are prone to stress associated with changes in everyday life. Try using toys and interactive games to provide mental stimulation and exercise.
  5. Reduce their stress response - reducing an animals stress response will help them to cope with future changes. For example, there are various (non-medicated) supplements or pheromone sprays, which help to calm and relax the pet. These include a range of products by Feliway (cat only), Adaptil (dog only), Zylkene and Aptus. It is recommended to start these ahead of the anticipated time that the pet will be alone.

Some animals show more signs of separation anxiety in response to new changes than others. Below are the signs of separation anxiety for dogs and cats, so you know what to look out for:

Signs of separation anxiety in dogs:

  • Bark, howl or whistle for more than 30 seconds when you are leaving home
  • Scratching or biting household objects
  • Destructive behaviour that occurs only when the dog is home alone
  • Over-grooming (excessively licking themselves) or some other type of self-destructive behaviour
  • Changes in appetite

Signs of separation anxiety in cats:

  • Urinates elsewhere than in the litter box
  • Loud or increased vocalising
  • Over-grooming (excessively licking themselves) or some other type of self-destructive behaviour
  • Changes in appetite
  • Becoming needy and contact-seeking
  • Increased hiding
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

If you notice any of the signs above, it is a good idea to consult a qualified pet behaviourist or veterinary behavioural specialist to help you and your pet.

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