How Do COVID-19 Restrictions Influence Your Pets Emotional Condition?

Covid-19 Pets Emotional Condition     |Published 02-26-2021

The lockdown has proved one more time the positive effects of human-animal relationships on our mental health and the ability of companion animals to boost our moods by just being around drastically. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly impacted our emotional state, but what about our dear fluffy friends?

Dogs and cats can experience stress, loneliness, anxiety, or boredom just like their owners. Despite that they cannot tell you about their concerns, you can still notice changes in their behavior. Signs of stress in cats include hiding, excessive grooming, aggression, and a decrease in appetite. For dogs, those are whining and barking, panting, yawning, drooling, changes in eyes, ears, and body posture.

A woman is working at her laptop with a Shih Tzu dog in her arms.How Do COVID-19 Restrictions Influence Your Pets Emotional Condition?

During the lockdown, these symptoms may start occurring more frequently or intensively. You should notice them as soon as possible in order to timely provide your pet with emotional support and prevent them from developing into destructive behavior. Below, you will find the necessary information to analyze your pet's emotional state and respond to it correctly.

Factors That Affect Your Pet's Emotional Condition

Several factors may impact animals' emotional state during the lockdown - biological, physical, chemical, and physiological. The latter is the one we will focus on in this article, as the coronavirus-related restrictions - social distancing, higher sanitary standards, reduced number of mass events, etc. - are primarily connected with mental health.

You may have observed noticeable changes in your pet's overall behavior and mood - it probably has become more rebellious, attention-grabbing, or even aggressive. However, before you start looking for tips to help with cat boredom or dog anxiety, always make sure to determine its initial reason to approach it thoroughly.

Too Many Changes

The slightest change in the usual rhythm of life can lead any animal to emotional issues. For example, the nervous system changes if the animal's diet or feeding hours have changed significantly or are inconsistent. It can also be triggered by loneliness or the lack of the owner's attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected our lives dramatically, forcing implementation changes into our working routines, mundane tasks like grocery shopping or house cleaning, and leisure time. As you can judge by yourself, those changes were quite challenging to adjust to and have probably affected your mental health as well. Getting used to social isolation and working from home requires some time and entails changes in your pet's way of life, followed by stress or anxiety.

Inconsistency of rules and in their routine will stress dogs and cats out, so your primary task is to maintain their routine as normal as possible. First of all, you will fail to explain to your pup the concept of remote work, as while it constantly sees you at home, it will demand your attention (bet you won't resist). Thus, the best solution is to stick to your working hours, spend them in a separate room, or continue to kennel your pet if you did so when leaving for the office.

Another crucial thing is not to neglect obedience training. Although signs of stress or other emotional issues should not be mistaken for just disobedient behavior, sticking to regular practice will help your pet understand that some things remain consistent. And that you are still in charge, providing them with emotional support.

Lack of Physical Activity

Being trapped at home with an anxious animal that may be growling or hissing at you might be intimidating and unpleasant, so make sure to determine the primary source of such aggressive behavior. The excessive energy accumulated due to the absence of a sufficient amount of quality physical activity and mental stimulation may lead to anxiety-based conditions, including increased attention-seeking and destructive behaviors.

In addition to keeping your pet's routine maximally usual, continue to take it for walks as frequently as always, and make sure they exercise well. It will help decrease the feeling of restlessness and avoid losing socialization skills, which are vital for dogs and cats as much as for humans.

Pets sometimes also need their alone time, but you cannot have them feeling abandoned. Ensure that spending time together and exercising remain an essential part of the day, even if working from home takes most of your time. Besides, taking breaks from your remote workload to get some fresh air positively impacts your productivity, too.

Your Own Mental State

Dealing with the global pandemic is something we, meaning contemporary humanity, had never faced before, which expectedly impacted our mental health. In such an uncertain time, dealing even with the most mundane tasks may become a struggle, provoked by increased stress and anxiety levels.

Although human-animal relationships and interactions have shown many positive effects on human mental health, it is crucial to remember how easily animals pick up our emotions and moods. Thus, it is essential to be always mindful of your reactions to stressful situations or social isolation in general, as they may negatively influence your pet's emotional state if not moderated.

Companion animals tend to worry when they see their owner's meltdown, so if you have noticed anxiety symptoms already, you will not want them to get involved in another stressful situation. Instead, consider consulting your veterinarian for behavioral treatment and anti-anxiety medication for your pet - an equivalent of psychological therapy you would get for yourself in a similar mental state.

The Bottom Line

Human-animal relationships sometimes get even closer than can be expected. Unfortunately, with companion animals being so helpful and supportive for humans during the lockdown, the human influence may have the opposite psychological effect on pets.

People experience an increase in stress and anxiety levels due to COVID-19 restrictions, which affects their pets as well. However, even if your mental health remains stable during social isolation, rearranging the usual daily routine might entail your pet's behavioral changes.

It is vital to stick to consistent, familiar activities in order to maintain a state of normalcy for your companion animals. Nevertheless, if daily walks and obedience training do not seem to improve the situation and dealing with stress and anxiety symptoms becomes challenging, consider contacting a veterinarian. They will be able to prescribe a meditational treatment to relieve the symptoms.

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About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.