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back to schoolIt’s that time of year again! With the turning of the leaves and crisp air comes a flurry of activity as kids begin a new school year or leave for college. The start of a new school year also means a change in your pet’s home environment, daily routine, and may also mean less overall supervision for him or her.

Changes in schedules, different people in the home, and an influx of potentially dangerous foods and school supplies can create unexpected back to school pet issues that need to be managed.

Pet Separation Anxiety

Homework, activities, and shorter days at home mean kids and families are spending less time focusing on the family pet. Many pets thrive on a schedule, and the sudden change in routine and attention can be confusing and may lead to separation anxiety. Some signs of separation anxiety include excessive chewing or scratching, barking and howling, pacing, and potty accidents in the house. Be on the lookout for unusual behavior from your furry friend.

Creatures Of Habit

Work with your kids to come up with a routine during the school year that works for your family’s lifestyle and includes pet care responsibilities. Daily activities should be performed at roughly the same time each day to create a sense of continuity for pets. Some ideas include:

  • A stable feeding time
  • A morning potty walk with the dog or playtime with the cat (tired pets are less likely to be bored/anxious during the day)
  • Consistent playtime after school
  • Regular grooming sessions with a family member (and professionally, of course)

Making sure your pet gets plenty of daily exercise, mental stimulation, and attention will go a long way when it comes to combating back to school pet anxiety.

Enrich Their Environment

After all of the noise, chaos, and fun of a summer spent at home with the kids, it’s natural for pets to experience a “let down” once the school year resumes. You can help keep their spirits up by providing mental stimulation throughout the day in the form of:

  • Interactive toys or food puzzles left out for your pet
  • Bits of kibble hidden around the home so your pet can enjoy a “hunt” while your family is away
  • Enlisting the help of a friend, neighbor, or professional dog walker to provide exercise and company throughout the day if your pet is regularly alone for long amounts of time
  • Doggie daycare a few days per week, which can be a wonderful way for social dogs to burn energy, have fun, and be social with other pets

Make it a point to include the pet in the family’s weekend activities whenever possible. Enjoy family walks, picnics, or hikes, and even try taking your pet to a pet-friendly restaurant or store. Include Fido or Fluffy in family movie night or spend an evening grooming your pet or teaching them a new trick.

Back To School Pet Dangers

Separation anxiety isn’t the only risk our pets face during the school year. Backpacks and lunchboxes often contain items that are fascinating and dangerous for pets, such as:

  • Food from lunchboxes such as grapes, raisins, chocolate, and anything containing the artificial sweetener xylitol (such as sugar-free gum or peanut butter)
  • Human medications regularly carried in backpacks (anti-inflammatories, ADHD medications, albuterol inhalers, etc.)
  • School supplies such as glue, hand sanitizer, and markers

Make it a rule that all backpacks and coats must be hung up out of your pet’s reach every afternoon, and that lunchboxes be taken straight to the kitchen. Follow up to make sure to create a regular routine!

Your team at Conrad Weiser Animal Hospital wants to help you make this school year safe and fun for your pet and the whole family. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you have regarding your furry loved ones!