How to Help Pandemic Pets Adjust to New Routines

Dog anxiety increases as back to school and work routines leave them home alone. Here are expert tips to help them cope.

Getting kids back into school routines can be bumpy. When you add back-to-work stressors like wearing real pants, the whole family’s stress levels jump even higher. Whenever big transitions loom, it’s important to plan ahead. And this year, it’s more important than ever to have a plan for everyone, including your pandemic pet, especially if you added a dog to your family during the shutdown.

A record number of dogs and cats (23 million) were adopted from shelters during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s great news! But the bad news is that these pandemic pets may face separation anxiety and other stressors now that their owners are returning to work and school.

Dogs are people pleasers that crave attention and companionship. The pandemic has overdelivered an abundance of both. Our furry friends have been in doggie utopia. But now people are heading back to work and school. How can we help our pets adjust to a new routine? That’s the dilemma in many of the nation’s 69 million pet households.

Unlike their more independent counterparts (cats) , left to their own devices, there’s no telling what a dog will do. Rather than hiding the toilet paper, couch, bedding and other chewables or gating off the entire household, pet moms are using Pet CBD products to help calm their anxious pup. Shutterstock/Anna Hoychuk

Experts say that many dogs suffer separation anxiety when their owners change their normal routines. Now that life is lurching back to some sense of normalcy, our canine family members face challenges that we can help ease. For dogs, that means no more days napping next to humans on Zoom calls or getting an extra afternoon walk. That big shift in life as they’ve known is going to trigger stress in your pandemic pet.

Sandi MacDonald of Royal Oak knows all about dogs and stress. Three years ago, she rescued a German shepherd from an abusive situation where he spent as much as half the day jammed into a crate. Niko quickly bonded with her — but to the point where he simply could not be home without a human present.

Niko acted out in all sorts of ways, hurting himself, chewing up the living room curtains and once, when MacDonald tried leaving him in the car, destroying all four seatbelts in a short time.

“I couldn’t leave him alone for the first year and a half,” MacDonald says. “I would feel horrible because he would be so distraught.”

Dogs are soon to be empty nesters as everyone heads back to school and normal work routines. Did someone tell them? Shutterstock/Zivica Kerkez

Some dogs suffer from chronic stress from behavioral issues or situations that make them fearful, according to information from Oakland Veterinary Referral Service (OVRS) in Bloomfield Hills. A change at home, such as an additional pet, a move or significant changes in routines, can also trigger stress, according to the pet experts at OVRS.

Some 70% of U.S. households own a pet, according to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, which is up 14 points since the survey was first conducted in 1988.

Many are dog households. Unlike their more independent counterparts (cats), left to their own devices, there’s no telling what a dog will do. Rather than hiding the toilet paper, couch, bedding and other chewables or gating off the entire household (another dog stressor for those not accustomed to confinement), there’s a better way.

How to help your pup

Now is the time to start getting your dog ready for the reality of being left alone for longer periods than they are used to. (Most cats, on the other hand, probably can’t wait to get the house back to themselves.)

An increasing number of veterinarians are recommending supplements like CBD. Chiefly extracted from hemp, CBD has only tiny traces of THC (<0.3% THC), which is a part of the momentum around its growing popularity with dog owners worried about their pets’ stress and anxiety levels.

Now that life is lurching back to some sense of normalcy, our canine family members face challenges. Many pet parents are turning to Pet CBD as a means of helping ease their pandemic pet’s transition to being home alone. Photo: CBD Marketing Hub

Michigan and California are among states that have legally authorized veterinarians to discuss CBD for use in pets. Dog lover and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — whose own family added an Aussiedoodle puppy named Doug to their family during the pandemic — signed H.B. 5085 into law in late December 2020 after it passed through both houses of the legislature unanimously.

How CBD works

CBD is a stabilizer. Our bodies, both dogs and humans, naturally produce cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors.

CBD products supplement and enhance our endocannabinoid system, according to Jackie Berg, publisher of the Health Hub. This system enables CBD and other cannabinoids to interact with the brain and body and promote homeostasis, the tendency toward a stable equilibrium (our “zen” state).

More than 26% of CBD consumers trust hemp-based CBD to treat their pets, according to a 2020 report from Nielsen and Headset, Among them, half are dog owners.

Experts report CBD helps to reduce stress and anxiety, and promotes better and more restful sleep in pets and humans alike. The Arthritis Foundation is among a growing number of national advocacy organizations that recognize CBD’s potential.

Certified Safe CBD

Not all CBD products are the same, so when buying CBD, choose a product from a reputable manufacturer that engages in third-party testing that verifies its CBD products are free of heavy metals, bacterial/microbial life, mycotoxins (fungus) and pesticides.

The U.S. Hemp Authority’s certification is the gold standard in the CBD industry, according to Berg, who notes that its seal was recognized by Prevention Magazine as one of its top 10 medical innovations in 2019.

The best and most reputable brands publish their COA (Certificate of Analysis), which ensures that each and every product produced meets published specifications, quantity and quality standards. Many have scannable QR codes on their packaging, as well as their websites, making COA access and verification easy for consumers.

If CBD is new to your pet, it’s important to “start low and go slow,” paying close attention to your pet and any behavioral effects, taking special consideration of their personality and demeanor both before and after giving CBD (which comes in oil and capsule form). Over time, you can slowly increase the number of servings as necessary, as long as you stay under the daily maximum number of servings listed on the product packaging, according to product experts.

When it comes to diet changes, it’s always good to consult with your vet.

Where are all my pandemic people? CBD brand Bluebird Botanicals recommends that pet parents start readying their dogs for changes in household routines now. Hey, they want to know when you’ll be back. Shutterstock/JhonyRovetta

Calming stressed and anxious dogs

Now that more dogs are home alone as we ease back into school and work routines, it’s important to employ every tool available to avoid stress-related chewing incidents.

“Had I known about CBD 15 years ago, I would have saved our retriever Emma from a lot of needless stress and myself from $10,000 in costly kitchen cupboard repairs,” says Berg. “She would have never gone for the less costly toilet paper. That would have cheapened the message.”

Here are some tips for easing the transition:

  • Gradually increase time alone. Just like it’s a good idea to incrementally adjust sleep and mealtimes as you prepare your kids for back to school, find ways to slowly and gently leave Fido alone for longer periods as you run errands or do yardwork. Start with 15-minute increments and work up from there.
  • Introduce diversions like new chew toys to help ease boredom. Rotate their toys to keep it novel and interesting when they’re home alone.
  • Consider hiring a dog walker or depositing your pup in doggy day care for at least part of the day.
  • Leave the TV or radio on for auditory and visual stimulation.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of anxiety like nervous pacing and panting, whimpering, trembling, loss of appetite and nervous licking of the lips.
  • Remember that prolonged barking can be an expression of stress and boredom. Not only is it annoying for the neighbors, it can give your dog a sore throat, damage his vocal cords and lead to long-term health complications. Spirit Dog Training notes that dogs can settle down easier if they don’t have too much space to pace, so rather than keep them in the yard all day, try a smaller space inside.
  • Expect, and prepare, for accidents. Chewing things and peeing on the carpet are, alas, not unusual reactions for dogs who are suddenly left alone.

Learn more about how to shop for CBD and CBD for pets.

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