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Kids Headed Back to School? Watch Your Pet for Signs of Separation Anxiety

It’s August, and that means millions of kids go back to school either this month or by early September. After a long summer together that was probably more unstructured than the school year, both your kids and pets might not be ready for the change. While your children can express their anxious feelings, your pets can’t do the same. Don’t feel surprised if your dog or cat expresses longing for his young friends in a variety of ways. The most common signs of separation anxiety include:
  • Destructive chewing
  • Howling by dogs and loud vocalizations for cats
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pacing
  • Soiling in the house
  • Trying to escape the yard to run after your children
Cats may also groom themselves excessively to the point of causing bald spots. While dogs tend to become more aggressive when feeling anxious, cats may hide and show more fearful behavior.
 
Distract Your Pet When Your Children Leave
Distraction is a useful tool in helping to keep your pet’s mind off her friend who has gone to school. For dogs, try filling a Kong with peanut butter or another favorite treat that she must work to uncover. A catnip-filled mouse will help distract your cat from what’s taking place at the front door. If other people are home, someone should interact with the pet while your children leave to catch the bus. If everyone leaves the house at the same time, be sure that your dog or cat gets plenty of attention from at least one person.
 
Provide a Stimulating Environment When Your Pet is Home Alone
Be sure to rotate your pet’s toys frequently if he must be alone for long periods. The toys will be a novelty and help him feel less lonely. Dogs love any chew toy and need a comfortable place to sleep for naps. Your cat should have scratching posts, one or more perches to look out the window, hiding places, and toys as well. Leaving soft music on in the background while your family is away can help to calm anxiety also.
 
Both dogs and cats have a strong sense of smell and associate different aromas with their human family. It can be a comfort to your pet to leave something out that your children wear or use often as it will contain their unique human scent.
 
Make Sure Your Pet Gets Plenty of Attention
Your pet will adjust to the back-to-school change more quickly if everyone in the family gives her several minutes of undivided attention when they are home. This reassures her that she’s still an important part of the family and that no one has forgotten about her. Be sure to include your pet in family activities whenever possible.
 
Schedule an Appointment with Us if Your Pet’s Anxiety Persists
Some pets have a more difficult time with schedule changes than others. If you have tried these tips and your dog or cat remains highly anxious, request an appointment at Foley Blvd. Animal Hospital. One of our doctors can provide you with additional ideas, such as full or part-time doggy daycare for dogs. In severe cases, they can prescribe anti-anxiety medication. 

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