Separation anxiety is particularly relevant, given many pet owners have been working from home with their pets by their side 24/7, but are now returning to workplaces. Pets might perceive this sudden separation as abandonment, becoming anxious when their owner gathers their keys, shoes and bags to leave the house.
Situational anxiety is when your pet isn’t typically anxious, but develops this when facing a particular situation, such as the dog park or the vet clinic.
Noise phobias, such as fireworks, thunder, vacuum cleaners or garbage collection, are also common triggers in dogs in particular.
The anxious signs
It’s important to identify signs of anxiety and possible triggers to find the appropriate calming technique or treatment for your pet.
For example, is the anxiety triggered at a specific place like a school yard or dog park? Or was it triggered by moving house, returning to work, a new baby’s arrival or after repeated exposure to loud noises?
Conditioning can also contribute to anxiety. That is, if the animal has had a routine from an early age that is suddenly disrupted. Or, puppies and kittens born during the pandemic will have missed out on certain conditioning experiences like positive puppy training, socialising with other dogs and people at parks, or being left alone during the day.
Anxiety is the underlying mental health issue, but it manifests in many ways, often which owners see as changes in their behaviour.
These changes might range from a general inability to settle to appearing destructive – including chewing furniture, clawing curtains, urine marking, excessive barking or meowing, escape attempts, not eating, increased yawning and lip-licking, pacing, panting, hiding, scratching or constantly following the owner around.
Treatment requires a holistic approach that often involves a GP veterinarian,
a specialist behavioural veterinarian or trainer.
Once your pet’s issue is identified, treatment is gradually introduced. Every pet responds differently and there is no one solution, but treatment usually requires transforming the cause of anxiety into a calm and positive experience. This might mean changing the environment, training, or in more advanced cases, giving them natural supplements to alleviate anxiety.
Minimising common causes of anxiety is always the best option. Expose your pet to as much as possible during their most sensitive period – up to the age of two months for cats and three months for dogs – to get them used to things like traffic, other animals and being alone.
For more tips and tricks on supporting your pet’s mental wellbeing, head to blackmores.com.au/paw.