Leaving the House Again? - Ways to Reduce Pet Anxiety

The Comfort of Companionship.

Pets are often ruled by routine so a new normal for many is to have you around 24/7. They have started to rely on the extra time and attention, but as people return to the office and venture out of the house more, pets will naturally notice the change in routine. 

For many families, the extra time together during the pandemic has been a silver lining. But what happens when you go back to the office?

Multiple friends have reached out recently, asking for suggestions on how to comfort companion animals who seem to experience anxiety. Anxiety can be related to a change of environment, activity, routine, or time alone. (Btw, I would most likely feel anxious with unexpected changes in my daily routine as well.)  

A recent study found evidence that over 70% of dogs may have some form of anxiety-driven behaviors. Noise sensitivity, fear of surfaces and heights, and inattention were some of the most common. Does the animal in your household seem to experience anxiety?     


So, What Are Signs of Anxiety in Pets?

Although I have heard of research teams exploring technology to translate and convert dog thoughts into humxn language, that particular tech breakthrough is still on the way. In the meantime, communication between different species remains complicated and it can be hard to know if they're experiencing anxiety.  Are there some ways you can immediately cushion the new changes by incorporating them into a daily routine? Are there some lifestyle changes you can make to soothe your pet? If the concern goes on more than a couple of weeks, it may be helpful to visit a holistic vet professional to determine if a medical diagnosis is warranted. 

Although behaviors vary, the following may be observed in a animal experiencing anxiety: 

  • Vocalizing (barking, howling, whining)
  • Destructive tendencies (biting/tearing, scratching)
  • Behavior changes (lethargy, increased tendency to sleep)
  • Agitation (pacing, repeatedly walking a particular route around the house or yard)
  • Ptyalism (salivation/drooling)
  • Tachypnea (panting, increased respiratory effort)
  • Inappropriate elimination (urination and defecation)
  • Pica (consumption of non-edible materials)
  • Digestive tract upset (reduced appetite, vomiting, diarrhea)

Solutions to Reduce Anxiety

Consistency & Reliability 

Like most of us, pets can appreciate a routine. In my household, having the daily structure was beneficial for me and the dogs seemed to enjoy it as well. Routines can help us thrive by creating structure in daily life, but they may also help animals look forward to and know throughout the day. Making space for regular exercise, playtime, and alone time as well so they will have an idea of when they can expect these activities or adapt to change.   

Exercise

Maintaining an active lifestyle with exercise is good for both humans and pets. Not only does movement and exercise keep us physically fit but it also helps in maintaining good mental health as well. As we start to emerge from our homes this summer, remember the animals we live with have been cooped up as well and can benefit from the fresh air, sun, movement, mental stimulation and frankly, change of scenery. Getting out to “smell the roses'' has a new meaning for all of us. 

There are many ways to exercise but also incorporate mental stimulation as well. If you have dogs and/or cats, there are several types of toys and games designed for them to enjoy. Don’t shy away from challenging or thought provoking puzzle toys, or a Kong filled with a frozen banana or peanut butter. It will help keep their mind occupied and more importantly, engaged and learning. A game of hide-and-go-seek rarely gets old so discreetly placing treats around their living space to discover while you’re out, can be fun as well. 

Try Natural Remedies

Before trying pharmaceutical anxiety medications, try discussing CBD with your veterinary care team. When offering suggestions for trusted options, I recommend what I gave to my dogs, Emisha hemp CBD Dog Treats. My intention was to give the best and trust the brand and products. Quality measures are in place for our hemp CBD and coupled with the easy 2 mg dosing, these features are key distinguishing attributes. Added bonus is that each CBD soft chew is infused with organically grown hemp, flaxseed oil (great for joints), and vitamin E (inflammation). 

It was also helpful to do some research on my own and then discuss CBD with a vet professional. They can help you develop a care plan that incorporates natural and effective care. 


Enjoy Time Apart

Incremental time alone is key. Just as we need some alone time, our pets probably need it too. 

This can pose a problem for those of us that stayed indoors and worked from home constantly for the last year. Personally, when I started to venture out, I actually felt a lot of apprehension about being in larger groups and for suddenly leaving the dog alone more. However, I reminded myself that time alone and away from the house can be a good way to recharge and also  for both can be an enjoyable experience if they have a bed, or space with some favorite toys or chews within their reach. When I left for an extended period of time, the radio was on a low interesting program for pleasant background noise. 

In addition to a low level of noise, if your companion animals finds touch therapeutic, a comfort shirt or even a clothing article that has been worn by you may provide an additional sense of well-being. 

What not to do?

Ultimately, you don’t want to berate or punish when pets show signs of anxiety. Try taking a deep breath before responding. Who hasn’t felt anxious over the last year? Perhaps it can help to remember how connected we are in that, we also experience seasons of anxiety and it is also common with pets. Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control and learning how to respond with compassion or to reframe our perspective can help with exploring numerous prevention strategies with an open mind. 

Final Verdict: Make the transition slowly, doesn't matter if it takes a week or a month. Handle things with ultimate care and compassion. 


Additional Resources:

https://boulderholisticvet.com/holistic_treatments_anxiety_pets/

https://www.vetyvet.com/en/holistic-veterinary-solutions-for-dog-anxiety/

https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2019/exploring-the-underground-network-of-trees-the-nervous-system-of-the-forest/

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