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October 30, 2020

How to Alleviate Pet Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

Living through the challenges of a pandemic has been hard on all of us, including our pets. Our emotions are not only contagious among humans, but studies have shown our stress rubs off on our dogs too. Quarantining, working remotely and the lack of social get-togethers have confined most people to their homes for long periods of time. While your pets probably love to have you around, it can be overwhelming if they aren’t used to it. In fact, behavioral issues and pet anxiety are on the rise — what is behind them and what can you do if you think your pup might be suffering from them? 

Why does COVID-19 cause anxiety in pets? 

Social tension

For pets, the whole family being at home all the time tends to disrupt routines. Ultimately, our four-legged friends are missing out on much-needed alone time — just like with us humans. They may also receive too much attention (yes, there’s such a thing!) when everyone is at home and in need of comfort. Additionally, dogs are particularly good at picking up clues about their owners’ emotional state. As a result, they sense the stress their human family is experiencing because of COVID-19. 

Lack of socializing

It’s important for young and older dogs alike to practice socializing regularly. That way, they get used to and are comfortable with new people, animals, and situations. If your pets aren’t used to socializing, when they do encounter new and challenging situations, it can lead to anxiety and behavioral issues. Being cooped up at home naturally means pets have fewer opportunities to socialize. 

Separation anxiety

While separation anxiety may not be your primary concern now, be prepared for what’s to come. When quarantine rules are relaxed or lifted and people are freer to spend more time outside their homes, it may come as a shock to pets used to having their family around them 24/7. Dogs that suffered from some level of separation anxiety before COVID-19 hit is at particular risk when their owners go back to work, school, hobbies, and gatherings. 

How can you help a pet suffering from anxiety? 

pet and owner sitting together outside after a walk

Stay calm. Your pets sense your emotional state, so if they are suffering from anxiety it’s important that you stay calm. Consoling them too much can worsen their stress, so consider distracting them with toys, treats or play time instead. 

Practice changes in routines. Before spending long periods of time away from home, practice leaving for shorter periods of time first. You can gradually lengthen the time you’re away. Another approach is to build routines (feeding, walking, etc.) around your departure so that leaving is just one part of the routine. 

Exercise and engagement. Rigorous and fun exercise reduces anxiety in pets and helps keep them calm while you’re not at home. You can also leave your pets treats, puzzles, automatic feeders and activation toys they can engage with while you’re away. 

Background noise. For separation anxiety, leaving the television or radio on as background noise can help your pet stay calm. Still, be sure to pick a station that doesn’t play loud or aggressive noises. 

Safe socializing. Even with social distancing, it’s important to take your dog out for long walks and make sure they encounter new things. You can also take your pet for a car ride and make sure they stay used to being handled — for example by touching their paws, tail, or ears as a veterinarian would.

Calming treats. Calming supplements can help you calm an anxious dog. Okoa Pet’s “Hush, Puppy” CBD calming treats for dogs are all-natural treats that combine broad-spectrum hemp with naturally occurring CBD and other calming ingredients. They’re specifically designed to help your pet cope with anxiety and stress. You can find more information here