Preventing pandemic-related pet anxiety now and later

A veterinarian has advice for helping pets get through the pandemic when everyone is home and when their owners return to work.

With all the family at home during the pandemic, pack animals such as dogs could not be happier to have everyone in the same roof. Some cats, on the other hand, not so much.

“I think it’s very smart to think proactively,” senior veterinarian at Chewy, Dr. Katy Nelson said.

If you’re a dog owner, Nelson recommends making adjustments now to help dogs that might experience separation anxiety when you’re not constantly around.

Start by resuming former routines you might have dropped, such as waking up, getting dressed and leaving the house.

“Whether it’s just for 30 minutes or an hour, where you go pick up a coffee through the drive-thru and you sit in your car for a while. It gives your pets a little bit of time without you,” she said.

If you can, Nelson said to try to make your departure time as similar to your usual workday routine. Some dogs might need to revisit the habit of having to spend time in their crates.

Signs of separation anxiety can include dogs destroying things or overly grooming themselves.

“Really good exercise can help a lot with these pets. A tired pet is a good pet,” Nelson said.

While dogs are likely to have the time of their lives with their pack always around at home, some cats are miserable.

“Some kitties are having some anxiety issues,” Nelson said. “Because people are just there all the time. They get no privacy. They don’t get their naps. They don’t get their usual grooming time because people are in the way.”

Nelson said if you haven’t been doing it, maybe leave the house for a while to give cats some time alone.

“Or, even create a space for them where they can get away from you,” Nelson said. It might include a private spot for their litter box and food bowls if you have enough space.

Whether there are issues now with cats or later when you begin to leave dogs alone at home, Nelson recommends getting help from your veterinarian, a veterinary behaviorist or a licensed trainer.

“If you’re noticing anxiety in your pets, make sure you contact somebody and get them involved,” Nelson said. “Deal with it. Don’t let (the pets) just suffer.”

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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