Q&A: How to combat separation anxiety as you return to work

Jenn BrownBlog

Many pets suffer from separation anxiety, and with owners returning to work after significant periods of furlough and working from home, it’s likely they will begin to feel the effects now more than ever.

Here, we answer your FAQs on what exactly separation anxiety is, and how to keep your pet content even when you’re gone.


What is separation anxiety?

Much like humans, dogs have a need to form social attachments. Most of us learn to cope with a person’s absence; unfortunately, some dogs simply can’t.

After weeks, if not months, of owners being away from the workplace, it’s likely your dog will have become used to having you around more. Going from having company all hours of the day to being left alone again may cause dogs to become anxious. Usual signs include:

  • Excessive vocalisation (barking)
  • Whining and crying
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Chewing

Before a plan is put in place, it’s important to establish if your pet is suffering with separation anxiety or is just trying to relieve boredom.


Can exercise help with separation anxiety?

Anxious dogs require appropriate exercise in order to relieve stress. One hour’s exercise a day can reduce a dog’s anxiety and is particularly effective if done before your departure. If your dog is struggling, why not try a morning walk or run?


Can training help?

Dogs are very sensitive to the little things that make up our daily routine – where our keys are, where we put our coats on. It is easier for them to cope with our departure if we make less fuss when we leave and if we try and desensitise them to these departure triggers. Try putting on your coat and leaving but returning straight away or doing it at different times of the day. This is a long process, but constantly repeating these triggers can ease the anxiety when you do actually leave for work.


How about toys or treats?

Introducing a new toy, such as a kong filled with tasty (and most importantly, safe) treats can also keep dogs calm. Introduce the toy while you are there until the dog has a positive emotion around the toy before leaving it with them. Once they are feeling happy with their toy, then it can be helpful to give it to them minutes before you leave to keep them focused on something other than you as you leave.


Are there any medicinal treatments?

There are two medicines we would recommend to help transition pets being left alone – Dog-appeasing pheromone and Zylkene. These treatments should be used alongside exercise and de-sensitisation techniques.

Dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) is a naturally occurring pheromone which was initially extracted from lactating bitches. DAP has been shown to support both puppies and adult dogs during stressful situations. This comes in a spray, collar, plug-in or tablet form.

Zylkene is a natural product derived from cows’ milk, clinically proven to help dogs manage stress and facilitate adaptation to change. This needs to be given before a known stressful event, or daily to ease separation anxiety when returning to work.

If all other avenues have been explored, including sessions and advice with a pet behaviourist, there are prescription medicines available that may be required following consultation with one of our vets.

As you return to work, it’s important to remember that every pet should be treated as an individual based on their needs and anxieties. Treatment for separation anxiety can be highly effective if carried out diligently and, in time, an anxious pet can become happy and content even when alone.


If you’re concerned about going back to work and your pet suffering, contact your local Blythman and Partners practice to discuss which options may help. Find your nearest practice at www.blythmanandpartners.co.uk