Pug on green backgroundIn the face of sweltering heat, the incontrovertible truth remains that summer will be petering out soon. This might provide great relief to your panting, tired-of-the-heat cat or dog , but this seasonal change can also trigger confusion and panic if they are used to rolling around with the kids all summer long.

To be sure, with Houston’s schools opening for the fall term, pet separation anxiety is a real concern. Oak Forest Veterinary Hospital understands that this transition can be especially difficult for pets. With our proactive approach, every member of your household can manage the start of the school year with finesse.

Departure Details

Pet separation anxiety happens when a pet feels overly attached or dependent on physical contact and attention from an owner. This can be fairly innocuous at first (when a pet closely follows an owner, for instance); however, when forced to separate a pet can become highly agitated and distressed.

Often, crate training is an excellent antidote to pet separation anxiety, as it enforces scheduled alone time, but isn’t the only solution.

Plan Ahead

Your pet will be thankful for your attempts to prevent undue stress. Every pet is unique, but we have found that the following strategies work well:

  1. Establish the new routine in advance – Slowly acclimate your pet to the approaching school schedule a few weeks beforehand. Leave about the same time each morning and stay away for an hour or two in the beginning. Slowly work up to longer stretches of time away. Over time, your pet will be able to predict when you leave, and when to expect your return.
  2. Set the scene – Give your pet extra attention and opportunities for exercise prior to leaving (at least 15-30 minutes). Exploratory and chew toys will give your pet a purpose in your absence and may even tire him or her out.
  3. Reinforce the right behavior – Pet separation anxiety can be difficult to address, but it’s important to reward only the behaviors that you seek. Calm and quiet behaviors are the only ones worth rewarding, and certain toys or treats are valuable assets.

Redirecting Pet Separation Anxiety

Easing into your family’s new school schedule will take time for everyone. While transitioning, it may be worthwhile to:

  • Schedule someone to check in your pet if needed.
  • Upon your return in the afternoon/evening, try to downplay that you were gone. This will send the signal to your pet that everything is fine, and nothing is out of the ordinary.
  • Give extra opportunities to play or exercise.

If That Doesn’t Work

Many pets will grow accustomed to the time you spend apart. That being said, pet separation anxiety can pop up unexpectedly in these ways:

  • Chewing
  • Barking excessively or other increased vocalization
  • Destructive behavior focused on possessions of the preferred guardian
  • Will not leave your side
  • Soiling inside the home
  • Shaking or shivering
  • Salivating

It’s Elementary

Your pet’s wellness is important to our team. Please let us know if you need help identifying or addressing pet separation anxiety. Good luck!