Pet insurers covering the cost of anxiety treatment after surge in lonely lockdown dogs

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Many owners who purchased a ‘pandemic puppy’ during the first lockdown may find their pet is suffering with some separation anxiety as they return to the office. These dogs have spent very little time away from their owners, and may struggle being left alone for long periods, which can lead to excessive barking and other unwanted behaviours.

As a result of an increase in behavioural issues in dogs, the number of pet insurers that have included cover for behavioural issues in their policies has risen.

New research by Defacqo revealed that 44 per cent of dog insurance policies offer full cover for behaviour, up from 30 per cent in February 2020, before the pandemic.

Some policies include covering the cost of vet referrals to behavioural therapy to help treat emotional distress from being left alone.

Others, such as Petplan, cover consultations to ‘diagnose and treat separation anxiety’.

Their website says: “While the policy does not cover behavioural training, it can cover medications or therapies your pet needs to help calm their nerves.”

Not only are more policies covering behavioural issues, but the average amount of money insurers will cover has also risen from an average of £2,205 per-pandemic, to £2,984, with a quarter of policies offering over £5,000-worth of cover for behavioural treatment.

The increase in pet insurers offering cover for separation anxiety is welcome news for owners, as there are now an estimated 12 million dogs in households across the UK, as 3.2 million more joined families in the pandemic.

Many owners who had been working from home during the covid crisis and have returned to the office may find their dog is showing signs of distress when they’re not home.

Dogs suffering with separation anxiety can cause destruction in the home, as well as soiling the house and howling all day, and some cases may see dogs shaking, vomiting or ‘self-mutilating’ like chewing their paws or tails.

Brian Brown, consumer finance expert at Defaqto, said: “Dogs provided much-needed companionship for their owners throughout the pandemic and for those that started life in lockdown, they have never known any different.

“It is not surprising then that some dogs are anxious when they are being left alone for the first time and displaying destructive behaviour. The good news is that this is treatable and insurers have stepped up to increase their cover for this.

“Many insurers offer free vet helplines where you can get advice over the phone, even if you don’t have to make a claim. If you find you don’t have insurance cover, speak to the animal charities to get advice.”

In July, the RSPCA warned they were preparing for the ‘biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation ’, with dozens of dogs handed into rescue as ‘Freedom Day’ came around.

Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA pet welfare expert, said: “Sadly, the PFMA found that 11 per cent of new owners have already given up a pet and we fear that this is just the beginning of what could become the biggest dog welfare crisis of a generation.

“Behavioural problems are one of the key reasons why dogs are relinquished to rescue centres and we’re already starting to see ‘pandemic puppies’ coming into our care.”

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