A dog's life as pets left home alone get the blues
INCREASING numbers of pets are suffering from stress and behavioural problems as a result of being left at home alone for long periods of time, new research has shown.
Eight out of ten veterinarians say they have seen an increase in animals suffering problems as a result of being left by their owners.
The problems suffered by pets are similar to those humans may experience as a result of loneliness, such as stress and depression.
Just over a quarter of people who responded to a poll by the insurance company More Than said their pet had suffered from some sort of behavioural problem, with leaving animals alone seen to be the main cause of the problem.
Ironically, 70 per cent of owners said that they kept a pet for companionship.
The Scottish SPCA also said they were seeing an increase in the number of cases of dogs suffering from "loneliness".
The research was based on responses from 350 vets and 1,700 pet owners questioned by mail during June.
Joyce Stuart, a leading Scottish canine behaviourist who is based in Lanarkshire, said it was common to find pet dogs suffering from "separation anxiety".
She explained: "It is a condition which means when the dog is left on its own in a house, it cannot cope.
"This can occur for example if the dog has been used to company and then the owner suddenly gets a job and the dog is left all day on its own.
"Symptoms can manifest in one of three ways - the dog either barks continuously, it chews and destroys furniture, or it does the toilet in the house.
"Now they don't do this as retaliation for being left on their own; instead, it is a way for the dog to relieve stress.
"The period of time a dog can be left varies between dogs, but nine hours while an owner is at work is too long.
"If someone wants a dog but they work full-time, then they really should rethink their decision."
She added that it was not too late if a pet owner's dog was showing signs of "separation anxiety".
"An animal behaviourist can give advice to help solve problems if a dog is showing signs of distress," she said.
Sophie de Pelet, a veterinary adviser for More Than, said: "Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that man's best friend is often left alone for long periods of time when pet owners go out to work.
"This can be extremely stressful for animals, especially dogs, who like company. Worryingly, persistent anxiety can contribute to long-term illness.
"Dogs should ideally not be left alone for longer than four to five hours. With cats it is more difficult to specify a time period but beware - if they are not getting companionship at home, they may well uproot and move in elsewhere."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish SSPCA said: "Dogs are pack animals and therefore when we leave them alone for long periods they see it that they have done something wrong, as they have been 'discarded' from the family."
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