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Many Pets Stressed And Anxious During Coronavirus Due To Routine Changes

BOSTON (CBS) – Have you noticed a change in your pet's behavior over the last few weeks?

Our pets have the ability to feel stress and anxiety and just like us, and these changes to our routine can be hard on them.

"Getting into things they shouldn't is a top phone call we've been receiving," Dr. Heidi Sutcliffe of Norwell Veterinary Hospital told WBZ-TV via FaceTime.

"Surfing counters, getting into the trash, destructive behavior, pent up energy not and being able to settle down are all signs they may be stressed," Sutcliffe said.

With many people working from home and schools closed, your living space may be more hectic than your pet is used to. Some will enjoy the extra companionship, but others might want their space. Even social distancing can have a negative on your pet if they are used to doggy day care and lots of interaction.

"Try to keep your routine as close as possible and be consistent with feeding schedules. It will provide them some structure," said Sutcliffe. "They're very in-tune to your behavior so if you can do your best to remain calm then your animal will as well."

Sutcliffe also recommends using puzzle toys and getting outside for some mental stimulation.

Playing in your own back yard or going for a hike are all great options. If you encounter another person with their dog, nose to nose contact is too close for humans to be standing.

"I think it's very helpful to have that release during the day, to take your animal outdoors and go for a walk and get some fresh air," said Sutcliffe. "I think animals are forcing us to do those things that we don't get to do in a busy office space and it's a valuable thing at the moment."

Sutcliffe also says it is important to spend at least an hour a day away from your pet or else they could develop separation anxiety, which is especially true of puppies.

"There's a short window of time where puppies are socialized between 4 weeks to 5 months. We want to desensitize puppies to loud noises, different voices and people, things in our environment," said Sutcliffe. "What you can do at home is switch up the tone of your voice, stream some things on YouTube like sirens, high-pitched noises shake a blanket or place obstacles around the house and practice basic training. Keep social distancing, the puppy will be fine… but use some of these techniques to get them desensitized."

Norwell Veterinary Hospital is also recommending pet owners proactively select somebody whether it is a family member or a neighbor to be the caretaker for your pet if you get sick.

"Create a folder with what they eat and when, what medications do they take, what types of habits they have…so if you are sick and need somebody to take over, that folder is ready," Sutcliffe said. "Have two weeks worth of pet food and a 30-day supply of medication like heartworm, flea, and tic preventative. Make sure they are up to date on vaccinations."

Sutcliffe said pet owners should take this opportunity to develop a deeper connection with their pets.

"This type of crisis allows us to have a little bit more bonding time with our pets, animals offer us such great emotional support in times of high stress," she said. "But be aware that when you do go back to work anything that you switched up is probably going to stick, animals are creatures of habit."

Norwell Veterinary Hospital still has availability for sick appointments and they are offering curbside service for essential vaccinations and medicine. The hospital will soon be rolling out telemedicine appointments for anyone who cannot leave their homes.

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