WITH children going back to school soon, some pets may develop separation anxiety after spending the whole of the summer holidays with their human companions.

Changes in the family routine can be a potential trigger and leaving your dog home alone after they have been used to constant human companionship during the school holidays could lead to anxiety.

As a pet owner, it is important to look out for tell-tale signs your pet is stressed. To help understand and reduce your pet’s stress, natural animal health company, nutravet have highlighted some common signs to look out for, which include:

  • Increased vocalisation: When anxious your dog might bark constantly, whine or howl when you leave them alone for extended periods of time.
  • Increased sleeping: If your dog is sleeping more than usual, it could be a sign that they are not themselves. If you notice a change in your pet’s sleeping pattern it may be best to consult your vet.
  • Isolation: Most pets like to be with their owners 24/7, so if your dog is isolating themselves from you or other pets, it might be a sign that they are not happy. They could hide somewhere, such as under the bed.
  • Decrease in appetite: Most dogs would eat more than they should if they could, so if your pet suddenly seems uninterested in food, or doesn’t eat at all, this could be a sign that they may be feeling anxious.
  • Aggression: If your pet is unusually aggressive towards family members or other pets this could be a sign of stress. Aggressive signs could be accompanied by a fearful body posture and facial expression.
  • Digestion: Your pet might experience a sensitive tummy if they are feeling stressed. This may cause them to need the toilet more and they may defecate or urinate in the house.

Other common signs of stress in pets may include panting (in dogs), nose/lip licking, yawning, tail lowered or tucked, or ears pulled or pinned back.

Korina Stephens, from nutravet, said: “Stress in pets is very common and a reason why many pet owners visit their vet. Pets are very much part of the family and as an owner it’s never nice to see your dog anxious and scared.

“If you’re worried about changes in your pet’s behaviour, you should consult your vet, who is best placed to monitor your pet’s health and advise the best solution for your pet’s health needs.”

Although dogs should not be left for too long throughout the day, we can’t always be with them 24 hours a day. If you have to leave your pet alone while at work or for a few hours, there are some positive things you can do to reduce stress, such as leaving your dog with plenty of toys to play with and creating a den or safe zone for your dog to retreat to if they are feeling anxious.

You could leave an item of clothing with your smell on for your dog, which will help to comfort them when you’re out.

If you live on a particularly busy road, close the curtains to prevent your dog from getting distracted by outside noise.

If you know you’ll be out for an extended period of time, ask a friend or family member to stop by and check on your dog. Even if it’s just to let them go to the toilet outside.

Start leaving your dog for small amounts of time. Even leaving them in one room and going into another for 10 minutes will help get them used to not being around you 24/7.

If they have caused damage or toileted in the house, don’t shout at them on your return as this will lead to further anxiety. They could also then worry about you returning home each time you leave them.