Back-to-school means a lot of new things for kids and petsnew wake-up times, new meal schedules, and new daily routines. All these changes can be especially hard on pets. Wellness Animal Hospital offers tips to allay your pet’s anxiety and prepare them for a successful school year.

#1: Prepare your pet before school starts

Think about what will change in your pet’s schedule, and then introduce the changes slowly, beginning well in advance of the actual back-to-school date. This allows you to monitor how your pet handles the changes, and make adjustments. Prepare your pet by:

  • Switching up meal times — Switch your pet’s meal times to reflect a typical school-day schedule.
  • Adjusting outdoor time — Begin to stagger potty breaks for adult dogs, gradually increasing the time in between breaks.
  • Increasing time alone — Leave the house for short periods of time that you gradually increase, to help your pet adjust to spending more time alone.
  • Keeping exits low-key — Resist the temptation to fawn over your pet before leaving the house, which will only heighten their stress. Keep your actions low-key, hand your pet a treat if you choose, and calmly walk out. Your return should be subdued, as well. 

Once you find a routine that works for the whole family—your pet included— keep to that routine as much as possible. Pets thrive on consistency, and maintaining the same day-to-day schedule will reduce their stress and help them feel secure. 

#2: Keep moving with your pet

Physical health is important for you and your pet, and daily exercise will energize you both and prepare you for the day. Pets are great motivators to get you moving. According to the ASPCA, dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week, while people without dogs walk only about 168 minutes. Schedule time to walk your pet each morning and afternoon. 

#3: Pet-proof your home

Bored pets can get into troubletrouble that could send them to our Wellness Animal Hospital. If your pet will not be confined to a crate or pen while the family is away, ensure no potential hazards are accessible. Look for any toxic items your pet could chew on or ingest, including:

  • Toxic house plants 
  • Human or pet medications 
  • Small toys 
  • Food or candy
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Paint
  • Rodent poisons

#4: Provide fun for your pet

The day can be long and boring for a pet who is used to being entertained all day by their family. Help your pet to associate being home alone with fun activities, including:

  • Engaging toys — If your pet is not destructive, leave them with toys and puzzle feeders to keep them occupied. Shop for various treat puzzles for cats and dogs, or freeze peanut butter, spray cheese, or canned food in a rubber Kong as a tasty diversion. 
  • Background noise — Your pet’s summer days were likely filled with activity and noise, and the sudden quiet can cause anxiety. Turn on some music or the television on a channel geared for pets to help  your pet feel less alone.
  • Call in reinforcements — If your family will be gone most of the day, you may want to consider a pet sitter, dog walker, or doggy daycare for your pet. 

#5: Spend stress-free time with your pet

All the changes that come with a new school year can be overwhelming, and some stress relief may be needed in hectic times. Pets can be a powerful form of stress relief, and spending time with your pet before or after school and work can do you both a world of good. Spend extra time with your pet as they adjust to their new schedule, take extra-long walks on the weekend, sneak in extra cuddles, and simply spend time reassuring them they are still loved. 

#6: Watch your pet for separation anxiety signs

Destructive behavior often indicates separation anxiety. Consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of these signs:

  • Trembling
  • Drooling
  • Excessive licking  
  • Excessive scratching
  • Increased barking 
  • Increased whining
  • Urinating or defecating inside (for dogs), or outside the litter box (for cats)
  • Attempting to escape through windows, doors, or crates

#7: Schedule a back-to-school wellness exam for your pet

Before you and your family get too busy, schedule your pet’s wellness exam to:

  • Stock up on their heartworm, flea, and tick prevention medications
  • Schedule any routine procedures such as dental cleanings or microchipping
  • Discuss strategies and treatment for separation anxiety

Getting into the swing of the back-to-school routine takes time for everyone, and may especially affect your pet. Contact our Wellness Animal Hospital team to schedule an appointment for your pet’s wellness screening and to discuss potential separation anxiety.