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RSPCA pet welfare expert warns of pet separation anxiety as freedom day arrives

With freedom day looming tomorrow, a lot of pet owners across Kent will be going back to work for the first time in 16 months.

More people around the county will be heading outside due to restrictions easing, and that means animals are going to be left at home more often.

Lisa Hens, a pet welfare expert at the RSPCA

kmfm spoke to Lisa Hens, a pet welfare expert at the RSPCA, about what challenges this could bring for pets and their owners.

She said: "Our pets have got used to having us around all of the time over the last year, so this is going to be a really big change in their routine.

"And for dogs, they can find that really stressful. We know that a lot of dogs do suffer from separation related problems, so it's a real challenge for them.

"I think the thing that owners need to do is to start preparing now, and introduce any changes to routine really, really gradually. Hopefully they can kind of prevent any issues coming before they start."

To help dogs with separation anxiety you could leave a fun toy for them to play with while you're not home. Picture: Canva
To help dogs with separation anxiety you could leave a fun toy for them to play with while you're not home. Picture: Canva

To help dogs with their anxiety owners should introduce any change gradually and positively.

Lisa continued: "You should start to get your dog used to being left alone a little bit more, and build up from there, and try to teach them that it's okay to be left alone.

"If owners are already worried that their dogs might be showing some kind of signs of separation anxiety, it's a really good idea to speak to their vet and ask to speak to a behaviourist.

"Then they can help you make sure that it doesn't get any worse."

Often referred to as separation anxiety, separation related behaviour (SRB) is behaviour that only occurs when the dog is separated from their owner and in many cases is because they are feeling distressed.

Dogs may suffer from separation anxiety as their owners go back to work. Picture: Canva
Dogs may suffer from separation anxiety as their owners go back to work. Picture: Canva

However, on the occasion that your dog misbehaves whilst you're out, it's important that you don't react badly.

Your dog will become anxious about what you will do when you return the next time you go out making the anxiety and behaviour worse.

Lisa added: "Some signs of separation anxiety could be if the dog has been disruptive whilst you've been out.

"So if they've torn up the kitchen or wherever they are, that can be a sign that they're worried about being on their own or that they're just a bit bored or frustrated, which is also something you need to address.

"Some of the signs can be more difficult for owners to see.

Separation related behaviour is behaviour that only occurs when the dog is separated from their owner. Stock Image
Separation related behaviour is behaviour that only occurs when the dog is separated from their owner. Stock Image

"So things like vocalisations, they might bark and howl while you're away, but obviously if you're not there, it can be really difficult to know.

"And so that's often something neighbours might pick up on or you can also video your pets while you're not there. And then you'll see how they're behaving and if they're okay."

For further information about separation anxiety or for support from the RSPCA click here.

You can listen to Lisa Hen's full interview on kmfm here.

Escaped animals, unusual finds and news from the RSPCA can all be found here.

To read more about Kent’s furry, flying and finned friends, click here.

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