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Pandemic puppies

The term “pandemic puppy” refers to any puppy born and acquired during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is well known that during the first lockdown there was a huge increase in the demand for puppies. Shelters in Britain recorded a 225 per cent increase in inquiries for dogs during and soon after April 2020.

Puppies also became significantly more expensive, with a 62 per cent increase in first cost in Britain. Similar trends have been seen here in Bermuda. There were also increases in breeding to meet this increased demand and also, sadly, an increase in dog theft, particularly intact dogs that can breed.

There are several reasons for this rapid surge in dog owners and all are linked to the pandemic and its effects on our own lifestyles. First, the lockdown presented a good opportunity, if you hadn’t already done so, to take a leap into the pet-owning world. People suddenly had a lot of time on their hands, and very little to do with it. Pets provide companionship during times of loneliness and stress, and contribute greatly to mental health and wellbeing, which was much needed during the period when we were all forced to isolate at home. Dogs became a great excuse to get out of the house – in order to take them for a walk – and in many circumstances a dog gave the kids something to do while parents tried to work from home.

As well meaning as all of these reasons are, lockdown was a relatively short-lived time and there is concern that the future of these pandemic puppies may not have been well thought out. Many of them have been purchased as an impulse buy, which sadly leads to a higher risk of abandonment.

The massive increase in demand for puppies lead to the inevitable price hikes and, in some cases, unscrupulous breeding of unsuitable parent animals. The emotional health of the puppy is influenced largely by the mental state and stability of the mother during pregnancy and in the period when she is nursing them post-birth. If she feels threatened or unsafe during this period, she will produce fearful and emotionally unstable puppies. If these puppies are then shipped on long journeys at a vulnerable age, the effect is compounded and can affect that puppy’s emotional health for the rest of his life.

Poor breeding practices often go hand in hand with limited veterinary care before purchase, which can lead to ongoing gastric issues and sensitivities throughout their life. Knowing and understanding the environmental standards and veterinary care the mother and pups have received prior to purchase is vital to ensure you receive a well-balanced and emotionally secure puppy.

Once these pandemic puppies entered their new home, they became part of a pack which rarely left the house; everyone was together almost all of the day. Adult dogs require 16 to 18 hours of sleep in every 24-hour period, and puppies need closer to 20 hours. This could not possibly be achieved in a busy home and left many dogs sleep-deprived. The busy house was a stark contrast to day one when the entire pack, minus the puppy, left and went back to work and school and didn’t return for many hours. You can see why so many of them then suffered from separation anxiety and began unwanted behavioural responses such as vocalisation and chewing, which in turn leads to increased abandonment.

If you are struggling with a pandemic puppy, there is help available and, with time and patience, their emotional health can be improved. Speak with your vet about solutions to these problems. They may recommend a qualified behavioural therapist to give help and support while working things through. If you are considering purchasing a new pet, speak with a vet about breed suitability, time commitments and responsible sourcing to avoid a pandemic puppy crisis.

Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published June 09, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 09, 2022 at 7:47 am)

Pandemic puppies

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