Back to school: How Do Changes in Routines Affect Pets?

 

Everyone in the family loves summer vacation, but household pets especially delight in the experience. Summer for pets means more time with their favorite humans, relaxing away the summer days, enjoying extra outdoor walks, and receiving plenty of extra attention thanks to your family’s more open schedules.
 
For most of the family, the switch from lazy summer days to return to the normality of full school days and work schedules not interrupted by long weekend vacations is to be expected - not necessarily welcomed, but at least explicable. Your pets, however, have no way of understanding why their humans are suddenly vacating the house for eight-plus hours a day - and this can impact them in a number of ways. 
 
The impact of a change in routine
 
A change in routine is always difficult for pets, most of whom are, by their very nature, literal creatures of habit. Your household routine will change at the start of the school summer vacation period, but, in the eyes of your pets, the change is for the better. 
 
In the fall, however, the change may be negative for pets - and can result in a condition known as separation anxiety. Having grown accustomed to constant company over the summer, all pets can struggle to be alone during the day - even if they have coped well with this in the past. The negative, from their perspective, change of routine coupled with loneliness can lead to issues. 
 
What are some of the symptoms of separation anxiety?
 
  • Depression:
    Pets suffering from separation anxiety will often display signs of depression, such as low mood, low energy, and even a poor appetite. 
  • Destructive behavior:
    Dogs, in particular, are prone to destructive behavior as a result of separation anxiety - you may find, for example, that you return home of an evening to find your dog has semi-destroyed your couch. This isn’t bad behavior; it’s actually a sign of the fact they are anxious and struggling to cope with those feelings. 
  • Excessive vocalization:
    Pets may try to communicate their feelings of anxiety through increased barking or meowing. 
  • “Accidents”:
    A change in routine can cause excessive soiling in all pets, especially if this happens during the times when the family is out of the house.
  • Repetitive walking patterns:
    Many dogs, and sometimes cats, will pace the same route while the family is away. Keep an eye out for excessive wear in specific areas of your floor in case this is happening. 
 
What can you do about separation anxiety?
 
Unfortunately, the most obvious solution to separation anxiety - not being separated from your pet - may not be workable. So, instead, you have to focus on relieving the symptoms. 
 
One way to do this is to ensure your pet has plenty to occupy their time when you are out of the house. Give them access to windows to view the outside world from, for example. Additionally, many owners find that pheromone therapy is incredibly useful for separation anxiety, as it helps to calm them without requiring a heavier pharmaceutical. Additionally food and treat puzzles and mazes help engage pets mentally.
 
However, it is worth noting that many of the signs of separation anxiety can also be symptoms of other health issues - and the fact these have developed during “back to school” season is a coincidence. As a result, if you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet, it’s worth booking an appointment to discuss the matter with our Cedar Pet Clinic Lake Elmo veterinary team.  With underlying causes ruled out, we can help develop a veterinary care plan that comprises of multiple strategies to help alleviate the symptoms your pet is experiencing. 
 
With a little intervention, we should be able to help calm separation anxiety in your pets, making for a calmer, happier household.
 
Image credit: Capuski / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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