Back To School Season and Pet Anxiety

Middle River Veterinary Hospital

Sponsored - August is back to school time for many families in the Shenandoah Valley, which means a big change in the daily schedule for our household pets. Many dogs and some cats will develop separation anxiety or other behavior problems as the result of an abrupt change in the household routine. In general, our companion pets thrive when their lifestyle is predictable and consistent. Most pets will adapt to changes in the daily routine if their basic needs are met and the changes are gradual.

Middle River Veterinary Hospital

For all pets, make sure that you start the transition process to the new schedule as early as possible, so your pet can adjust to small changes over a few weeks rather than a sudden major change overnight. Think about what will change – feeding times, walk times, play times – and try to shift to the new schedule in small increments over several days.

If your dog will need to be left alone for many hours at a time, make sure to start alone time in smaller increments a few weeks before the major schedule change. Be sure you have a safe and comfortable space for your dog to stay when he is home alone – a crate, exercise pen or small room with minimal furniture are all good options. Leave your dog with a safe food-stuffed toy (Kong, WestPaw, PlanetDog) to keep him entertained while you are gone.

For adult dogs, we recommend no more than 8 hours of confinement – if you need to leave your dog for a longer workday, then it will be best to have someone let your dog out for a potty break and play session in the middle of the day. A mid-day break will also help to take the edge off your pet when you do get home from a long day at work or school. If you have a secure outdoor area with adequate shelter and water, this also can be a good choice for long days alone.

Cats are more self-sufficient, but kittens and young adult cats do need lots of exercise and entertainment, and if left alone all day, they typically want to wake up to eat and play very early in the morning. If you do not want a 3 am wake-up pounce from your pussycat, engage kitty in a vigorous play session and offer a meal right before bedtime.

If your pet struggles to adjust to the new routine, you can try calming pheromones (ComfortZone for dogs, Feliway for cats) and calming treats (Composure Solliquin, Zylkene). These products may be helpful for pets with mild separation anxiety.

If your pet shows more serious anxiety, then it is time for a veterinary visit to discuss additional management and treatment options specific for your pet.

Middle River Veterinary Hospital