Did you know even the most devoted pet owners in the world have to leave their pets behind from time to time, whether it’s to run to the grocery store or go on a 2-week vacation? And, even the most overall well-adjusted pets can experience separation anxiety, resulting in feelings of overall distress while their owners are not at home.
If you suspect that your pet has separation anxiety, then it’s important to put effort into creating a calm and safe environment whenever we know we’re going to be gone for a while. The good news is that there are small things we can do to put our pets’ minds more at ease, and we’ll be focusing on what those things are, so that you can know that when you’re out of the house, your pet’s emotional disturbance is kept at a minimum.
Pets and Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety describes emotional distress exhibited when a caretaker is not physically present, and it’s not unique to animals. Young children often experience separation anxiety from their parents, and the same experience can take place in pets. When leaving the house, our pets have no way of knowing when we’ll return, or if we’ll return. They rely on us as caretakers, as we provide them with shelter, food, and love. Therefore, it is not surprising that they can be distressed if we are not presently with them.
You may be surprised to know that separation anxiety is more common among dogs than cats, although that’s not to say that cats can’t also exhibit severe symptoms. Dogs have been domesticated for much longer than cats, and as a result they have evolved to become more dependent on us than cats.
What are Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Pets?
Here are the signs to look for when one of a pet’s caretakers is away.
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to sleep
- Excessive grooming
- Excessive vocalization
- Lack of interest in play
- Chewing at the skin
- Apathy to affection
If a pet’s anxiety symptoms seem severe, they should see a veterinarian for possible advanced treatment, such as anxiety medications.
What Types of Circumstances Can Lead to Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety can occur under all kinds of circumstances, and it is crucial to know what those are so that you can prepare accordingly. Some may seem minor to you but can be very distressing to a pet.
Going to Work or Going on Errands
Yes, some pets may experience separation anxiety each time their owner leaves for work or goes on errands. If your pet has an anxious personality, you may want to take certain precautions each time you leave the house.
Going on Vacation
Being away for multiple days can cause more severe separation anxiety, even if you have a close friend or family member staying at your home with the pet.
The Loss of a Household Member
Separation anxiety can be the most severe when a household member moves out or passes away. A pet can go through a severe grieving stage. It’s worth pointing out that this can occur if another pet in the household has died as well.
How Separation Anxiety Can be Treated
Separation anxiety in pets can be difficult to treat in that it cannot simply be remedied by the caretaker staying home. But, you should see a veterinarian if your pet shows any of these symptoms. Your vet can rule out underlying conditions that can be exacerbating the issue, such as certain pain conditions that can make a pet feel more vulnerable, especially when you’re not there to look after them. They can also determine the severity of the situation and decide whether or not more advanced treatments are necessary, including prescription medications for anxiety.
There are some tips as well you can employ that can make your home more calming to a pet when you’re away.
Tip #1: Calm Music
Playing calm music when you’re away can actually be quite soothing to a pet in distress. You may be surprised by how much calm music can actually help a pet’s nervous system feel more relaxed. Find a long video of meditation music on YouTube, as there are many, or find a radio channel that plays mellow music.
Tip #2: A Safe Hiding Space
When pets are anxious, they prefer to hide in a small space that acts as shelter. Consider an enclosed bed or a small fort or box in which they can sleep while you’re away. This will make your cat feel protected against external dangers, as it plays into their natural instincts to hide in enclosed spaces.
Tip Comforting Smells
Many pet owners find that their cats or dogs are calmer when they leave lightly worn clothes near where their pet sleeps. The scent of a pet’s owner can make them feel less distanced from them. Consider taking a shirt out of your hamper as this will have your smell on it.
Pheromone sprays for cats and dogs can be very calming to a pet, so consider investing in one and spraying it on your pet’s bedding. It’s easy to find and does not require a prescription.
CBD for Pet Separation Anxiety
More people are giving their pets cannabidiol (CBD) from the hemp plant in an effort to help their furry friends achieve a sense of calm.
Study #1: We now know that cannabidiol is nontoxic to pets and works with their endocannabinoid systems in the same way it does for us. CBD is a cannabinoid which binds to cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system to regulate specific responses that can impact stress and overall mood.
Study #2: Taking CBD regularly may offer some kind of impact on a pet’s stress levels.
Study #3: Cannabidiol may be particularly useful to anxious dogs, and similar studies pertaining to cats are currently underway.
Giving Your Cat or Dog CBD for Separation Anxiety
To effectively use cannabidiol to help a stressed-out pet while you are away, follow these tips to ensure maximum success.
Tip #1: Tell Your Veterinarian Before Starting Them on a CBD Routine
This is especially if they are on certain medications that could potentially conflict with hemp compounds. Your veterinarian can help offer personalized guidance based on your pet’s unique needs. In fact, a vet can even determine how much CBD your pet should take, and how often they should take it.
Use a Pet-Friendly CBD Product
Chill Paws CBD pet products for instance contain ingredients that are safe for them to ingest, while certain CBD products for humans may not. You should use an internally based method like a treat or tincture, as topicals only work with localized areas.
Be Careful with Dosing
Follow the dosing instructions on the package carefully, as they are carefully determined according to a pet’s weight. These instructions ensure your pet gets enough CBD for it to be effective, but not so much that it could potentially make them sleepy.
Giving CBD daily is more effective as it gives your pet’s endocannabinoid system proper cannabinoid support. Cannabinoids do work cumulatively, potentially being more effective over time when taken consistently.
Extra Bit of Advice
When you first begin giving your pet CBD, make sure to monitor them carefully, and keep your veterinarian updated on how they respond.