Dealing with Back to School Anxiety in Pets

By Ashley Watson

pet-anxietyAs the summer is starting to wind down, many children and teenagers are going back to school or off to college. While everyone may already be aware of the potential anxiety and stress this transition can cause (or perhaps relief for some parents), many people forget about the stress this causes on the family pets. Dogs and cats who are used to having the kids around during the day in the summer or have become accustomed to more outings may have a hard time adjusting at first.

There are some ways to help reduce the stress levels for pets, including some that start before schedules change and your companion animals develop behavioral issues. Whether your pets have started to show signs of stress or you just want to take some preventive steps, this week’s post has a few tips for you.

Change Routine Slowly

pet-anxietyThe ASPCA recommends that you try not to make any abrupt changes in routine. Unless the kids have already gone back to school, give your pets a chance to adjust by introducing shorter periods of separation. The ASPCA also reports that chewing, excessive barking, and going to the bathroom in the house are all signs of separation anxiety. Dogs that show these signs may have health concerns, so speak with your vet if you see any sudden changes in behavior.

However, if your dog starts to show symptoms as soon as the kids go back to school, they are most likely experiencing separation anxiety. Cats tend to let their owners know that they are upset by going to the bathroom outside the litter box. Keep in mind that urinating on floors or furniture could indicate a UTI, or a problem with the litter box itself. See this page for more tips about the litter box. You should be able to tell whether or not your cat’s behavior is due to separation anxiety.

Manage the Behavior

pet-anxiety-4Once you’ve figured out what’s causing the problem and ruled out health issues with your vet, you can curb the behavior with the right method. For dogs who chew, many vets and trainers recommend filling a Kong rubber toy with peanut butter or a treat to keep them occupied. Deer antlers also work well because they do not splinter even for intense chewers. They also last a long time and are easy on the digestive system.

For cats, make sure you close the door to any place in the house that has furniture or carpet they might be tempted to use as a litter box, or put foil or sticky tape on the furniture. You can also try calming supplements or cat pheromones. If they do urinate on a bed or couch, make sure you clean it and get rid of the smell completely, or they will be attracted to the scent and pee in the same spot any time they are upset. There are many formulas on the market, but the best cleaner can be made from everyday household ingredients. It also removes skunk odor.

Is your pet stressed due to schedule changes? What have you found to help? Share your tips with us on Facebook.

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