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Helping pets cope with post-pandemic separation anxiety

This is a recording of KEYC News Now at 10.
Updated: Mar. 28, 2021 at 10:46 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, record numbers of furry friends have been adopted all over the world. While folks have enjoyed the extra time they’ve been able to spend with their pets, the pandemic may leave a lasting impact on their animal’s emotional health.

“Animals, especially like shelter animals, they are only used to what they’re being exposed to,” said Emily Braaten, Shelter Manager at BENCHS in Mankato.

With restrictions being loosened, people are slowly returning to their pre-pandemic routines. For dogs and cats who form emotional attachments to their owners, time away from them can cause intense separation anxiety.

“If your routine is being home all the time, then that’s what they’re used to. If you’re going back to work, it’s going to be a change for them,” Braaten stated.

Separation anxiety in animals is similar to having a panic attack. Experts say if it’s not dealt with early on, it can become a serious issue.

BENCHS’ Executive Director Andrew Burk added, “One of the things we worked on, especially with my wife working from home, was separating the dogs from us and even sometimes the cat. So, we kind of close the door, put them downstairs with a baby gate to help introduce them back to what normalcy would be.”

If you notice changes in your pet, such as destructive behavior when it’s left alone, there are steps you can take to calm them.

BENCHS says now could be the perfect time to start crate training your animal or designating a space for them to go when you’re away. Interactive toys can also be helpful to keep your pet busy.

“They’ll have a couple days of higher stress, but then it will start to reduce, and then they’ll get used to what their new surroundings will be,” Burk mentioned.

If changes in your pet’s behavior persist, BENCHS suggests talking with your veterinarian who can recommend the best course of treatment.

For more information on adopting from BENCHS, visit BENCHS.org.

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