The founder of a mobile vet service has raised concerns over the potential increase in pet mental health problems when work patterns return to normal.
Dr John Rosie, founder and director of VetCare@Home, is warning dog owners particularly to be aware of the post-lockdown dangers and learn to recognise signs of mental health issues in their pets.
The extended periods of lockdown during the past year have typically given owners the benefit of sharing more time with their furry friends than they did before the pandemic.
An unprecedented number of households have even purchased puppies for the very first time, partly to keep family members company during times of enforced isolation. These puppies will have little or no experience of “normal” life.
Dr Rosie, whose clinics cover the whole of Derbyshire from bases in Belper and the High Peak, is advising owners to act now in order to mitigate problems such as separation anxiety in dogs, before Covid restrictions are more fully relaxed.
He said that it’s important to instigate a gradual withdrawal programme while owners are still at home, so that times of prolonged absence due to changing work habits do not happen suddenly.
“We’ve long been aware of how the company of a pet, like a cat or dog, can do wonders for our own mental health,” said Dr Rosie. “But my fear is that some owners may not fully appreciate that their pets are also prone to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
“Lockdown has meant that, for many months, these animals have not spent much time apart from their owners. Yet, once everyone goes back to their normal work routine, we could be facing a real problem.”
He said that if owners can now learn to spot signs of stress and anxiety early on, they could really help their pets to cope better with the inevitable changes to their lifestyle.
“Unfortunately, our pets can’t talk to us, but we can tell an awful lot from their behaviour if we know what to look out for,” said Dr Rosie. “And we can start to help our pets now by being disciplined enough to leave them alone for gradually increased lengths of time.”
Separation anxiety is nevertheless often displayed out of sight of the owner. Dogs may bark, howl or whimper when they feel they have been abandoned. They may lose their appetite, chew furniture or household objects more, or go to the toilet inside the house.
But these symptoms can be reduced if a dog becomes used to being left alone, comfortable in the knowledge that its owner will return soon.
If dog owners are unsure how to start preparing their pets for post-lockdown life, Dr Rosie is advising them to speak to a reputable trainer or contact a veterinary practice like VetCare@Home with any concerns.
To get more advice or find out more about the services of VetCare@Home, visit www.vetcarehome.co.uk or ring 01773 302220.