Back To School Blues: Pets and Change

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August 30, 2013
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For some of us, school has already started and the rest of us will have our kids going back after Labor Day. These last few weeks were probably spent buying new supplies, some new clothing, and maybe even a final family vacation. Now that everyone will be out of the house for several hours a day, your pet will be alone and may start to become depressed.

The attention, activity, and mere fact that someone is home more often during the summer changes abruptly in an animal’s mind. They don’t know what school is and what that means. All they knew is suddenly the house is empty for longer periods of time, some playtime is cut short, and the children in the house may have friends more often or be around less due to afterschool programs or weekend playmates. This change in routine can lead to anxiety and depression in our dogs and cats.

Some pets may show their emotional distress by chewing on furniture, eliminating outside of the litter box, barking more for attention, or scratching doors or walls. These aren’t cries for negative attention but they are trying to tell us that they are distressed and confused. What can we do to lessen the stress that animals feel from routine changes?

Here are 6 tips to curb those back to school blues:

1: Avoid abrupt changes in eating schedules and diet. If you have to feed your dog at different time, gradually move to that new time. Ex: Summer meal at 7am and 5pm. New time is now 6am and 6pm. Feed a half hour earlier and later over the course of a week to the new times. Your dog and cat’s circadian rhythm will adjust and will lessen confusion.

2: If your dog will be going to dog daycare or have a dogwalker while everyone is out, start now for shorter periods of time to make the transition smoother.

3: Leave some interactive toys out for your pet when you leave to keep boredom at bay. If you have toys that treats can be stuffed into that’s even better. It’ll keep your dog or cat occupied while you’re gone.

4: Don’t make a big production when leaving the house. A simple “See ya later Max” will do. Keep it low key and quiet.

5: If your dog has separation anxiety sometimes a shirt or blanket that your kids have will help alleviate the anxiety of your dog. Leave it on the pet bed or in the crate for your dog to cuddle with.

6: Make sure you spend some quality time with your dog and cat when you are home to reassure them that they are not forgotten. Play time, walks, a game of tag, or any form of exercise will keep them peppy.

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