5 tips to help your pet during a separation

Pets and separation

Like it or not, family pets are our best friend. You probably shared a secret or two with them that no-one else knows.  You can be sure they have seen you at your best.  And probably your worst!

Just like a human friend, pets don’t want to see their mate hurt.  Managing separation and/or divorce is painful and it is a difficult time for everyone, including pets.

Nasty words and actions impact pets in much the same way as they hurt young children.  Pets that hear arguments and see abusive behaviour will have some level of anxiety and stress. We know that dogs are dependant on their owners and look to them as “leaders of the pack” which makes them susceptible to feeling anxious.  When owners argue, dogs can become distressed as they do not know who to be loyal to or who to trust.

Behaviour changes

Anxious pets can be withdrawn or experience changes in sleeping and eating patterns. We asked Dr Maree Doolan, Associate Veterinarian at The Parkway Veterinary Hospital about the impact of arguments and separation on pets.

Maree has worked as a vet for over a decade helping many owners and their pets who have been affected by separation.  She told us, “that pets can develop behaviour problems such as house soiling when a relationship becomes difficult.  Many owners are unaware this has a profound impact on the health of their pet.”

But the hurt doesn’t end there as pets can miss the person who has moved out of the home.  Maree added that it is unusual for a previously unaggressive dog to become aggressive towards people or other animals because of separation.  She suggested that something else may be causing that behaviour.

In many cases, pets end up with one owner resulting in separation and anxiety issues making it extremely important for owners to monitor their pets.  Animals need support during times of conflict and changes to living arrangements to minimise anxiety and prevent long-term behavioural issues. Owners are often unaware of the harm they are causing their furry friends and if left unnoticed health and behaviour issues can be difficult to treat.

Tips for helping your pet adjust

Maree said owners should observe their pet’s behaviour and take action to help them adjust to changes in the home.  Maree provided the following tips to help owners and their pets.

  1. Maintain positive communication and avoid angry outbursts in front of pet.
  2. Relaxed and positive communication is an important tool in achieving a good outcome for pets.
  3. Be positive and calm meeting with the other owner for visitations.  Avoid shouting or raising voices as this will help keep your pet calm.
  4. Maintain a stable environment and routine.
  5. Watch for changes to your pets’ behaviour.

To learn how Toppako can help you change how you communicate and take back control of your communication, read our article here.