Pet owners warned about animal separation anxiety post-pandemic

Survey by DSPCA shows pet ownership surged during Covid-19 crisis

Pet owners are oblivious to the potential problems posed by post-pandemic puppies once pre-lockdown life resumes, according to a new piece of research published the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA).

The survey points to a surge in pet ownership during the Covid-19 crisis but warns of a wave of separation anxiety amongst animals who have grown accustomed to having their owners at home all day every day over the last year.

According to the research, one in eight people or 12 per cent of those polled got a new pet during the sequence of national lockdowns but 60 per cent said they were not concerned or even aware that their pets will likely develop anxiety when there’s an inevitable change to their routines as pet owners head back to work or out of home more in the months ahead.

The DSPCA also expressed concern that nearly two-thirds of those polled said they wouldn’t or couldn’t bring their pet for professional training while 4 per cent said they would “seriously consider giving their pets up for adoption if they misbehave due to the understandable anxiety caused by a change in routine or being left alone in the house.”


According to the survey of 1,000 people which was, funded by online lottery company Lottoland, 17 per of men said they had got a new pet during the pandemic compared with 9 per cent of women.

The youngest Generation Z age demographic of 18-24s had by far the biggest uptake of new pets, with 37 per cent saying they had got a pet during the pandemic to keep them company at home with 1 in 6 saying they had got a new pet for the first time.

All told 27 per cent of those polled said they did not know that a change in routine can cause a pet to change behaviour for the worse while 60 per cent said they were not worried at all that their pet would suffer from anxiety or change their behaviour adversely when society opens up again and people spend less time at home again.

“We would encourage dog owners to start preparing their pets now for a change in routine,” said Suzanne McGovern of the DSPCA. “It’s important that your dog has something positive to do while you are out of the house, otherwise it may lead to anxiety or destructive behaviour.”

She recommended giving dogs “something enjoyable to do such as sniffing games, interactive feeding toys and treat dispensers” and reminded owners that dogs “need to stimulate their brains and love to challenge themselves. This is a great way of draining excess energy and anxiety, helping them to stay calm and settled.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast