Back to School Blues: Coping with Pet Depression

Close-up Studious Dog With Reading GlassesWith summer coming to a close and another school year upon us, many families are caught up in the excitement of shopping for school supplies and figuring out new schedules. However, a family pet who has been enjoying months of constant playtime may feel a little differently once the kids are off to school.

Many pets eventually adjust to the new routine, but for some, feelings of sadness, loneliness, and anxiety set in, leading to pet depression or separation anxiety. Our tips aim to help you and your pet cope with the “back to school blues”.

Signs of Pet Depression

In the first few days and weeks of the new school year, be on the lookout for any signs that your pet may be depressed, including listlessness or lack of energy, appetite changes, and even aggressive or destructive behavior.

Sometimes a pet can develop separation anxiety, especially when the routine changes drastically (such as when a pet is suddenly left alone for 6 or more hours per day).

The symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Excessive barking, howling, or meowing
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Repetitive searching, sniffing, or looking out of windows
  • Frantic clawing at doors and windows
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Cat scratching
  • Clinginess

How You Can Help

Pet depression and separation anxiety can be tricky, and may require professional intervention. You can also help your pet at home in the following ways:

  • Set the scene – Pets thrive on a regular schedule, and abrupt changes can throw them off. A few weeks before school begins, slowly start acclimating your pet to the new routine. Increase the amount of time he or she is left alone and implement any changes in mealtimes, playtime, etc.
  • Sweat it out – A tired pet is generally a happier pet, so make a commitment to providing your four-legged friend with physical activity before you leave in the morning and after you return.
  • The importance of fun – Make sure your pet has a mentally stimulating toy or two (or three!) to enjoy while you’re gone. Kong toys, food puzzles, and cat trees are just a few examples of fun and safe entertainment for pets.
  • Reduce loneliness – If your pet is regularly alone during the day, consider hiring a dog walker or professional pet sitter to come by once or twice a day to exercise and interact with your dog. A few days per week at doggie day care is also a wonderful way to provide your pooch with exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Family involvement is key – Everyone in the family should make it a priority to show the family pet some extra love, with plenty of cuddles, belly rubs, ear scratches, and playtime.

It’s important to never punish your pet for behaviors associated with pet depression or separation anxiety, as this can make the situation worse. If you are still having difficulties, please give us a call. Your team at Pet Medical Center is here for you, and together we can help your pet beat the back to school blues!