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7 Red Flags That Your Pets Need to Be Separated, Veterinarians Warn

Having multiple pets in one household can cause problems when they don't get along.

Once you have one furry friend in your family, it's hard not to want to add another. Unfortunately, having multiple animals in one home can present its own set of challenges. Some pets simply don't get along with one another, which might mean you'll need to keep them apart until you can consult a trainer. But how can you know for sure that your pets need to be kept apart? We talked to a few experts to get more insight on what pet owners should be looking out for. Read on for their seven red flags that mean your pets should be separated.

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Fixated eyes

Half portrait of a Beagle hound looking intently at the viewer

Some dogs that have a strong prey drive will kill cats if given the chance, warns Alexandra Basset, CPDT-KA, lead trainer and behavior specialist at DogSavvy. That's why it's important to examine dogs' eyes when there are cats around.

"If a dog is fixating on another creature (and won't take its eyes off it) and flicks its tongue, these are warning signs it may be about to go into an arousal state (also known as a heightened state of energy), which could result in an actual attack," she explains.

When a dog is in an arousal state, its eyes may appear bloodshot or whale-like, in that you can see the whites of them, according to Basset.

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Aggressive behavior

Two dogs Fighting. Color Image

Another important red flag to watch out for is aggressive behavior, Sabrina Kong, DVM, experienced veterinarian and staff writer at WeLoveDoodles, tells Best Life.

"Aggression between pets can be a concerning issue, especially for small breeds," she says. "It's crucial to understand the root cause of the aggression and take appropriate action."

Constant fleeing

Gray-white cat and Morkie dog, playing or fighting together in the domestic room

Many pets love to wrestle, which is often harmless. But if one pet is always trying to get away during this playtime, it could be a sign that the other is getting too rough, according to Daniel Caughill, pet expert and co-founder of The Dog Dale.

"If you notice that one of your pets is visibly trying to get away from the other, it's a good idea to put them in separate rooms," he advises. "Once separated, both will be able to calm down, and there won't be any risk of playful wrestling boiling over into something more violent."

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Persistent bullying

funny pets at home

Whether it's a dog or a cat—no matter the size or breed—any pet can engage in bullying behavior. When that happens, it's "essential to recognize and address this immediately," according to Kong.

"Persistent bullying can lead to significant stress and anxiety for the victimized pet, impacting their overall well-being," she explains. "As a veterinarian, I often advise pet owners to intervene by separating the bully from the victim and implementing positive reinforcement training to modify the bully's behavior."

Warning growls

aggression of small dogs, the owner got into the personal space of the dog, angry pet

Dogs will let their fellow pets know they don't like them—so it's important to keep an ear out for this, Caughill says.

"When your pets pass close to each other, listen for warning growls," he recommends. "If you notice anything, it's a good idea to separate your pets every time you leave the home, and you should avoid allowing them both to get into cramped spaces together, such as under the dining table."

RELATED: Your Dog's Tail-Wagging Could Be a Bad Thing—Here's How to Tell.

Food dominance

Cute puppy eating from a bowl with pet food in the living room.

Animals may try to assert their position in the household over other pets by dominating their food or water source, according to Courtnye Jackson, DVM, veterinarian and founder of The Pets Digest.

"If an owner notices that one pet is losing too much weight, they may want to monitor them while eating to see how they are interacting," she says. "And if one pet is being food dominated, they might want to separate them during meal times."

Chronic stress

Closeup portrait of one sad calico maine coon cat face lying on bed in bedroom room, looking down, bored, depression, woman hand petting head

Chronic stress is a "serious concern for pets and can have long-term effects on their health and behavior," Kong warns. And that stress may come from conflict with other animals in the household.

"As a veterinarian, I emphasize the importance of recognizing the signs of chronic stress in pets, such as changes in appetite, excessive vocalization, or withdrawal from social interactions," she says.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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