School Season Blues: How to Help Separation Anxiety in Pets
All summer long, your kids and their best four-legged friends have bonded over trips to the park, lazy days by the pool, and sprints across the lawn. Now you and your family have turned your attention to papers, pencils, new clothes, and busy schedules as the alarm clock announces another crazy day ahead. In the hustle and bustle, though, your pets may find themselves having to adjust to all of the changes the back-to-school season brings.
Although we think of the new school season in terms of our children’s adjustment to new classmates, classes, and experiences, it is important to remember that pets often suffer from some separation anxiety and stress in response to the change in routine.
While these shake-ups in family schedules are unavoidable, there are some ways you can help acclimate your pet to their flipped routine and make the process less daunting for your furry family member.
Separation Anxiety in Pets
Let’s start by addressing separation anxiety in pets; including what it is and whether or not your pet exhibits the symptoms. Basically, separation anxiety in pets is the exaggerated fear over separation from his or her owners. This anxiety manifests itself as:
- Repetitive yowling or barking
- Destructive behavior
- Appetite loss, and/or listlessness
Separation anxiety can also be perceived as “moping” or lethargy in some pets.
It may be difficult for some pet families to know the background of their adopted pets, yet in many cases you will have had clues about your pet’s response to being left alone or to general change. If you know that your pet is prone to high levels of separation anxiety, please consider bringing him or her in to discuss possible medications and an examination to ensure there are no underlying health issues.
Tips to Helping Your Pet Adjust
- Begin to acclimate your pup or kit to the new schedule by making incremental changes to the routine. Start the day earlier with a brisk morning walk or change the typical midday play break to an evening cuddle or Frisbee toss.
- Try to downplay your family’s arrival and departure. Don’t emphasize or over-respond to your pet’s enthusiasm to see you when you return.
- Gradually increase the time your pet is alone each day.
- Give your pet opportunities to work off some energy with morning and evening walks, a run in the park, or an exercise-oriented game.
- Leave a family member’s old sweatshirt or a swatch from a sweater on your pet’s bed, or wherever he or she generally naps. The scent can be reassuring to an anxious fur friend.
- Consider investing in some toys that can be engaging when your pet is alone, such as a free-standing “batting toy” for your kitty or a Kong filled with peanut butter for your pup.
In most cases, your cat or dog’s anxiety or nervousness will wane after he or she becomes adjusted to the new schedule. Of course, we also recommend more time spent making sure your friend gets ample snuggles and exercise, too! If, however, you suspect your pet’s anxiety is more serious, phone us today for additional support or to schedule a consultation.
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