Pet separation anxiety may manifest in several coping behaviors that express agitation and high levels of stress.
"We have to remember that separation anxiety is a true attachment disorder, so there are some animals that have a deep pathology," says SF SPCA President Jennifer Scarlett. "But for most animals, it's about what we do on a routine basis that sets them up to get ready for us to get back to work."
Wondering if your dog or cat is experiencing distress? Scarlett recommends analyzing your pet's behavior for telltale signs.
Look at your pet's water and food bowls. Does your pet eat and drink while you're away? If not, this is a subtle signal that they are distressed when you leave.
Set up a video camera to monitor your pet while you're away. Check for pacing, panting, and severe symptoms of anxiety including chewing, scratching, and destroying household items.
"The key to preventing separation anxiety is good routines," explains Scarlett. "You want to leave your animal and come back without a big fanfare, it's no big deal."
Scarlett also recommends teaching your animal that picking up your keys doesn't mean you're leaving. This dissipates cues that create fear in your pet.
In addition, anti-anxiety medication can help them better tolerate isolation.
"Sometimes when we're so anxious, we being dogs, cats, or people, we can't learn new behaviors," says Scarlett. "And so, it's really important to address that anxiety do some exercises and then they can learn new habits."
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