In one bit of good news to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, many animal shelters and rescue organizations reported surges in fostering and adoption of pets, with some shelters even emptying out completely. Some people sought comfort in animals while others found that being stuck at home was the perfect time to help a pet in need. Either way, the result was a net win for everyone.
Happy pets, happy people
According to the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, there is a strong correlation between positive human-animal interaction and changes in physiological variables in both animals and humans, affecting specific well-being hormones such as cortisol, oxytocin and dopamine.
The snuggle is real
It’s no surprise that nearly two years after social distancing (from humans) became the norm, many of us find ourselves struggling to return to the office and leave the pets who have become our favorite co-workers and best friends.
In fact, Bark, the company behind BarkBox, in September revealed findings from a survey of American dog parents in which more than 70% believed they would miss their dogs after returning to the workplace—compared with 42% who reported they would miss their spouses and 39% who would miss their children.
And tellingly, Dr. Rachel Malamed, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in Los Angeles, told the Huffington Post last year that she had noticed an uptick in separation anxiety cases in her practice since people had begun returning to physical workplaces.
One paw at a time
Fortunately, the American Veterinary Medical Association has tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible—for both you and your pet.
Slowly introduce workday routines. Schedule waking up, feeding and walking as you would for your expected workday routine. Introduce a consistent departure schedule that builds on that routine.
Keep them engaged. Long-lasting treats, food puzzles and automatic feeders can help keep pets occupied throughout the day.
Take anxiety out of your departure. Practice short departures daily and gradually extend the time you’re gone. Give a small treat just as you walk out the door to condition your pet to find it rewarding for you to leave. If signs of anxiety occur—such as destructive behavior—don’t punish your pet. Instead, shorten the time away and slowly build up to longer periods.
Turn on background noise. Leave on a TV, radio or sound machine to provide some company while you’re away.
Look for signs of stress. Excessive barking or whining, agitation, destructive behavior and inappropriate urination/defecation can all be signs of stress. If you’re concerned, consider filming your pets so you can observe what they do while you’re gone, and share the video with your veterinarian.
The transition will be difficult for everyone at first—but like all things, with a little time and patience, you and your pet will both adapt. But if your pet seems to be having a tougher time than expected, Nationwide offers coverage for behavioral therapy with some pet insurance plans. Check your policy documents or call 800-540-2016 for more details.
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