Toe Melburnian Anni O'Donnell van die werk af by die huis aangekom het, haar worshond, Ziggy, sal opgewonde wees om haar te sien. Sedert lockdown, wel, "hy huil en wikkel sy lyf vir 'n goeie vyf minute".
“He even does it for short periods of time, like a five-minute pop to the shops,” O’Donnell said.
“I already worried about leaving him for long stretches pre-Covid but now I’m so used to him by my side it feels weird without him. I have the guilt of knowing he has worse separation anxiety on top of missing him.”
Three-year-old Ziggy is one of many “pandemic puppies” grappling with separation anxiety as lockdown restrictions ease and their owners return to the office and socialise more – leading to a spike in demand for health and wellness products for pets.
Greencross Vets veterinary surgeon Dr Lucy Asher said she’d seen many pandemic puppies who’d never been left alone or learnt independence, which was provoking pet owners to turn to the market for help.
“There are also many dogs who were happy being left alone but who had adapted to having owners constantly present," sy het gese.
“We’re also seeing a rise in aggression due to lack of socialisation during the critical socialisation period in lieu of puppy classes.”
In the past year, $269.8m was spent on alternative health treatments for dogs – including acupuncture and massage. Nou, anxiety and calming products such as “relax care” treats, home diffusers, on-the-go collars and “thundershirts” are flooding the market.
Australian retailer Petbarn has seen a 59% increase in purchases for anxiety and calming products since Victoria came out of lockdown, and a 51% increase since New South Wales emerged from restrictions.
Hi-tech communication options are also being promoted to help dogs tackle separation anxiety themselves. A new product – coined the DogPhone – uses a soft ball that, when moved, allows canines to call their owners from home.
Australian Veterinary Association spokesperson Dr Isabelle Resch said managing pets’ mental health would be an “ongoing issue” as people returned to work and socialising.
“Young puppies are not used to having periods of separation, and it can be a difficult transition from having an owner home 24/7 to being at work 40+ hours per week," sy het gese. “This is likely to be an ongoing and potentially increasing problem.”
A spike in Australians seeking animals for companionship during lockdowns also contributed to the pet care industry growth. Sommige 69% of Australian households now own at least one pet, in large part due to a surge in dog ownership in the past two years. Dit, combined with a trend towards “pet humanisation” – whereby furry friends are viewed as family members – has seen pet expenditure boom in the past five years.
Health and wellness products for pets have been a burgeoning industry since before the pandemic began. But Covid-induced lockdowns seeing more pet parents working from home led to even further market growth, particularly for gourmet meals and treats.
Animal Medicines Australia estimated dog owners spent $20.5bn on their pets during the pandemic, while cat owners spent $10.2bn.
IBISWorld forecasts while spending on pets will continue to rise in the coming years, competition will also intensify, due to a greater demand for high-quality premium pet food and preventative healthcare medications for increasingly indulged pets.
O’Donnell said since Covid, Ziggy had become a regular at the pet store, and was “desperate” to enter anytime her and her partner walked past.
“I’d say I go once a fortnight to top up," sy het gese. “Is my dog spoiled? Definitely.”
RSPCA Australia senior scientific officer Dr Sarah Zito said the dramatic changes in routine post-lockdowns could be “stressful” or “confusing” for dogs not accustomed to being left alone, particularly for puppies purchased during the pandemic.
These are some expert tips to help pandemic puppies cope with separation: