How to help your pet cope in this post lockdown world
It seems our pets may have been the only ones who have really enjoyed the lockdown experience. Household members have been at home more, and able to tend to their pet’s beck and call for months, but now it is time that we are faced with a return to normalcy.
For our furry family members this will be a big change, and for some new furry family members it will be a completely new, and possibly terrifying experience.
Anxiety is the fear of being away from a carer. This is commonly recognised in dogs and cats, in varying forms, and can result in unwanted behaviours including, barking/noise, inappropriate toileting, destruction of property and self trauma. Escalation to other behavioural and medical disorders may occur if not addressed early.
If you are really concerned about your changing circumstances, or if you have already identified some unwanted behaviours in your pet, please book a behaviour assessment at Newtown Veterinary Clinic, so we can help individually determine what might help your pet.
Behaviour Modifying Training Tools
Providing mental stimulation and keeping pets occupied when you are not home is a great way to redirect their anxiety and improve their behavior and well-being.
Food dispensing toys are a great way to keep dogs and cats entertained and mentally stimulated. They provide a challenge that can help pets stay engaged and focused, as well as offering a reward for their efforts.
We recommend the following enrichment ideas to keep your pet busy when you are not home
- Kongs stuffed with treats and peanut butter for dogs left in the yard
- A digging pit with hidden goodies to discover in the day
- Doc and Phoebe Hunting toy for cats
- Hide your cat’s food around the house
It is a good idea to have some practice runs of you leaving your pet at home for short periods of time. Take your keys and your bag as though you are leaving, but just walk around the block, go for a short drive. Make these practice runs longer over time and remember not to make a fuss of your pet when you return home (it’s hard, we know!). Wait until they are calm before you interact with them, give them a treat, a pat or reward the calmness, not the crazy enthusiasm when they first see you!
Pheromones are chemicals that animals release to communicate with each other and influence their behavior, pheromones cannot be detected by people. By mimicking natural pheromones, synthetic pheromones can influence the behavior of animals, such as reducing aggression, anxiety, and stress.
ADAPTIL is a synthetic pheromone for Dogs which mimics the calm, sense of well-being emitted by mother dogs whilst feeding their pups. It helps both old and young dogs feel more at ease in their environment. Depending on your situation there are different options ways to use Adaptil
- Plug in diffusers are useful for living spaces inhabited by indoor dogs, and can be switched on and left running for 4 weeks -eg. Near dog crate, before diffuser liquid replacement is required
- Collars embedded with the pheromone last for 4-6 weeks as long as they do not get wet. The puppy sized collar is perfect for adapting to a new home environment, or a change in family circumstance where they need to quickly adapt to being independent.
- Adaptil spray can be used on a variety of surfaces, dog bedding, bandanas, every 4 hours to provide an improved sense of calm.
FELIWAY is the synthetic pheromone for Cats which is released by scenting/ marking cats in their “happy place” when they would naturally be smooching and rubbing their cheeks on surfaces. It helps to promote certain areas as safe, calm and relaxed areas, there are options for the best way to use Feliway in your home
- Feliway Friends is great for multi-cat households, it sends “harmony messages” to cats and restores harmony between cats living together
- Plug in diffusers are excellent for living spaces and areas where you would like your cat to be more comfortable and spend more time eg. relaxing on the lounge rather than trying to fight the neighbouring cat through the window
- Feliway spray can be used on various surfaces to encourage your cat to be at ease in areas such as the litter box or in areas of previous inappropriate toileting
Neutraceuticals and Supplements
ZYLKENE is a capsule that contains Casein, the amino acid identified in inducing the sense of calm experienced after a warm mild drink or by babies who are milk drunk! Our pets are powerfully affected in a similar way. It is a safe medication that can be used long-term or just in situations where anxiety can be anticipated – eg. experiencing being left at home
TRYPTOPHAN is used by the body to produce serotonin (a “happy feeling” neurotransmitter) and melatonin (a sleep inducing hormone). By supplementing this amino acid utilised in the neurological pathway, Tryptophan is thought to have anti-anxiety and calming effects. It is found in Blackmore PAW Complete Calm Chews for dogs.
In the event that more severe signs of behavioural disorder has been identified, your pet will need veterinary assessment. The treating veterinarian may prescribe a period of behavioural modifying medications. These can assist with the re-training and learning phase for dogs who have high levels of excitement or fear that prevent them from being able to learn techniques to allowing them switch off and relax. For dogs with dangerous behaviours, or who are at risk of more serious medical consequences, early use of these medications can be imperative to success.