Monday, August 31, 2015

Back-to-School Tips for a Happy Pet

Rocco and Sophie Havanese
Rocco and his pal Sophie had plenty of fun times this summer
This post is sponsored by Purina. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about 
the Purina Back-to-School program and tips from Dr. Kurt Venator, but To Dog With Love only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers.

Now that summer is winding down, many of us will be changing our routines. No more summer hours at work or summer vacations. Kids are back in school and soon the days will be (sadly) getting shorter. 

You may not realize it, but pets are deeply affected by changes in routine. Pets may feel lonely or experience separation anxiety as the kids head back to school and household activity levels change. 

We recently had the chance to chat with Purina veterinarian Dr. Kurt Venator about the signs of separation anxiety in pets and what you can do about it.

Dr. Kurt spoke with us and a few of our blogger pals on a recent Google hangout

The Signs of Separation Anxiety in Pets

Dr. Venator says that separation anxiety in pets is more common than you may think. 

"Separation anxiety is one of the more common conditions we see in pets," says Venator. "The pet is having distress due to the fact that their family members have separated from them for a period of time.  Some studies have shown up to 20 percent of the 80 million dogs in the U.S. can suffer from separation anxiety."

Common symptoms or behavior that may indicate separation anxiety
  1. Improper urination or defection in the home
  2. Excessive barking or howling
  3. Excessive chewing or destructive behavior
  4. Change in appetite
  5. Pacing
While these are common indicators of separation anxiety, if you notice these changes in behavior and are unsure about them, talk to your veterinarian as it may be a sign of a medical issue. 

5 Tips to Address Separation Anxiety during Back-to-School Season

Dr. Venator offers these tips to help keep your pets happy during back-to-school season.

Get your pet into a routine

Pets love routine because it makes them feel secure. During the summer, kids are always around to make things entertaining and exciting for their pets. When they suddenly disappear, some cats and dogs will feel sad and confused while others may experience real separation anxiety.

Thus, it’s important that pet owners help get their pet acclimated to the change by replacing the old schedule with a new one, such as allocating time to play with them after work or keeping a consistent schedule when coming and going from the house.   

Burn off some energy

Some pets deal with separation anxiety by becoming destructive (e.g. howling, chewing on objects or other parts of the house). A great way to keep your dog from doing this is by taking them on a walk in the morning before you leave the house to help burn off some of that extra energy. For cats, consider playing with them at night as well – whether it’s making them chase a feather wand or play with a ball.  

Create an interactive environment

Back-to-school season is a great time to buy your pet a new, interactive toy to play with. This will help mentally stimulate them and keep them occupied during the day when the kids are away at school. For dogs, chew toys are a way for them to relieve their anxiety, frustration and boredom.

For cats, creating a play area where they can be entertained even when you’re not home, can help ease the separation anxiety. This can include having things like scratching posts or cat furniture in your home. 

Turn up the tunes and start with baby steps

Try leaving some soothing music on at your home while everyone is out of the house. The music will help drown out distracting noises that your dog may mistakenly associate with the kids coming home. 

Additionally, get your pets comfortable with noises that may indicate your departure. For example, jingle your car keys occasionally and practice opening and closing the door to get them accustomed to noises that could increase anxiety.

Spend time with your pet

And, by spend some time, Dr. Venator says to spend some quality time with your pet. Don't just pat them on the head when you come home from work. Remember, your pet's been home alone waiting for you all day. Get down on the floor and really play with them! Or take your pup out for a walk. It'll be good for both of you!

For more information, visit


  1. We are thankful there is no school at our house. Our dog school is fun and we get to go together!

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