Guest blog post: Beating Pets’ Back-To-School Blues

Aug 5, 2013

Beating Pets’ Back to school blues – By the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association

When kids are home for the summer, pets can grow accustomed to the daily attention and playful interaction they have with family members. But when school starts back and their humans spend less time at home, pets may find it hard to adjust. The change of routine can cause separation anxiety and depression, which may lead to undesirable and even destructive behaviors. Signs of anxiety to look for include:

• In cats: hiding more than normal, compulsive grooming, accidents outside of the litter box, stomach upset or change in eating habits.
• In dogs: chewing, digging, escape attempts, accidents in the house, pacing or barking when left alone.

The best way to prevent this reaction in your pets is to begin preparing before the first day of  school. Here are some tips to ease the transition for all parties:

1. Sync your pet’s schedule with your child’s’ school schedule. Start feeding your pets and letting them outside in a safe and secure environment at the same time each day. This prevents the shock of a sudden change and can help you budget the time you will need to devote to your pet each morning.

2. Promote their independence by leaving them alone for increasingly long periods of time as the first day of school approaches. They will learn to amuse themselves more and be less sad or anxious when family members are gone.

3. While everyone is at work and school, reduce boredom by providing interactive toys. Be sure to give them plenty of attention and exercise when the family is at home.

4. Think of ways to include pets in your new routine. Some sadness is normal, especially in the beginning, but making sure they are still involved in your life will help ease the transition. Bring your dog along for the ride if you carpool to school. If your dog has grown accustomed to playing all day in the yard with your kids, he can look forward to an after school walk instead.

Routine is crucial to reduce stress in all animals. It provides them security and gives them consistent expectations for behavior. Stability is a source of comfort for our pets, just as it is for us. Any changes, even if they seem small, can trigger anxiety, especially in older or ailing animals. Over time, constant changes can reduce the level of trust between a cat or dog and its owner. Keep these tips in mind to ensure a smooth transition for everyone. By consideringthe needs of your four-legged friends, you can both remain happy and healthy throughout the school year.

Look for more insight next month from the NCVMA as we partner up for monthly guest blog posts!