Separation anxiety, also known as isolation distress, is a rather complex topic.
However, complex as it may be, separation anxiety is at least autological (in that it describes itself – or, is what it says on the tin) – someone or something gets feelings of anxiety when separated from someone or something. Essentially, it describes a fear or phobia of either being alone or being separated from a preferred human, caregiver, animal, or other source of comfort.
Perhaps most commonly children can suffer from separation anxiety, as many parents will have discovered when their child began (often quite suddenly) started crying, screaming or panicking when being dropped off at school or nursery for the day. Similarly, adults can suffer from it when away from their partner, child or pet, experiencing anything from a slight worry to overwhelming panic at the thought of being separated from them. But more and more this topic is being discussed in reference to our pets – especially dogs – as another unfortunate side-effect to working and isolating from our homes throughout the pandemic.
We, and other animal rehoming centres, are concerned that after so long indoors and around the house – through no fault of our own – a sudden change to routine will cause unnecessary distress as our pets struggle to adapt to being alone or away from their owners.
In the following pages we have discussed this topic in more detail, to help pet owners understand more about what separation anxiety is to our pets, what causes it, some of the signs and symptoms to watch for, and what a worried pet owner can do about it.