Keep an eye on your pet’s mental health during lockdown

By Alex Gretgrix

WHILE you can have a heart-to-heart with your mates, it's impossible to know how an animal is feeling.

Which is why owners are being encouraged to keep a close eye on their pets during the COVID-19 lockdown - and after it's over.

Echuca Rose's Veterinary Practice owner and vet Dr Rose Parsons said coming in and out of lockdown could seriously impact animals.

“While cats don't care as much, you could see changes in your dog during this time,” she said.

“Dogs love attention, you can see that as soon as you walk through the door when you come home from work, but when you're home all the time, everything changes.”

Dr Parsons said while a dog would enjoy seeing your face all day, it could cause problems when that stops happening.

“Separation anxiety is a real possibility,” she said.

“While a normal and stable dog should be able to cope with you suddenly not being there, there are a lot that may not.”

She said there are signs to look out for with your pooch.

“Dogs will often become destructive or aggressive, sometimes lethargic and may even go off their food,” she said.

“It's important to take note and we are seeing a lot of owners do that now.”

Dr Parsons said owners can make small changes at home to reduce the risk of any mental issues during COVID-19.

“Even while you are working at home, make sure you don't spend every waking moment with your pet,” she said.

“You can buy a toy, fill it with your dog's favourite food and tie it to somewhere secure in another room and by doing this, they will have something to distract themselves from the fact you're not there.

“It's also important for you and your partner or housemate to be consistent when around or disciplining your pet. Different messages can cause confusion."

However, if your dog is getting worse or not improving, it's always best to get advice from your veterinarian.

“We encourage any owner to come in and see us if they have a problem,” she said.

“Although we may encourage them to see a behavioural specialist, it's still important to keep an eye out and get advice as early as possible.”

Dr Parsons said it's important for owners to know they're not the reason this could be happening.

“We need people to know it's not their fault,” she said.

“But what you do know could make a world of difference down the track.”