September 9, 2013

Pets and Back-To-School in District 205, District 4, District 83 and Others

Author: Gail Brasie

Is Your Pet Experiencing The Back To School Blues?

iStock_000006310171XSmallJust like you, dogs and cats can have a tough time when your children go back to school.  
Whether they’re in first grade or seniors in college, when your children go back to school in the Fall, it can effect dogs and cats negatively. If your children have been spending lots of time with the family pet during the wonderful summer months and suddenly disappear off to school, dogs and cats can become depressed or suffer from separation anxiety. If one of your children is going off to college, your dog may not understand why his buddy is no longer at home with him even in the evenings and weekends. Signs to look for that indicate your pup may be having a problem with the school system include:
  • increased whining or barking during the day
  • loss of appetite
  • weird, disruptive behavior such as getting into the trash or chewing on furniture
The last is actually called a “displacement” behavior, sort of like a child acting out when they are frightened or anxious, a dog may engage in behaviors that don’t seem, at first, to have anything to do with the problem. They’re really trying to make themselves feel better, even though the behavior may be making you feel frantic.
For school-age children, making sure they spend time with the dog or cat after school is essential to the animal’s health–and it’s good for your kids, too. Set regular walks or play time, have your child be the one to dispense food at mealtime. If you have more of a lay-around-the-house dog, your son or daughter could have the dog lay-around-with-them while they’re doing homework–quiet time together is still quality time.
For young folks going away to college, this can be trickier, since they may be gone for weeks or months at a time. A general strategy to fight anxiety and depression in dogs and cats is lots of exercise. And if you are personally suffering from a bit of empty-nest syndrome while your child is off at college three states over, this exercise can benefit you too. Depending on the breed and age of the dog, their exercise needs will vary, but definitely make sure they are getting enough cardio.  
If things get really bad and your dog is just not acclimating to the absense of key family members, you may need to talk to your vet or an animal behavior specialist for additional ideas.

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