Does Your Pet Have Back To School Depression?

Summer is a great time for the whole family, including our four-legged family members. During summer break, children are home to play with your pet or other family members and friends come over for holiday parties and backyard barbecues. Our pets love the social interactions and many start feeling down when school rolls back around. As you and your family fall back into the school routine, be sure to keep an eye out for these symptoms.

Depression: In both dogs and cats, depression often manifests as lack (or complete) loss of appetite, hiding, increased time spent sleeping, lethargy, and unwillingness to play. Depressed animals who normally greet you when you come home may not even get out of their bed.

Separation Anxiety: Dogs display separation anxiety by excessive crying, whining, and barking. They may also resort to destructive chewing or scratching (at doors, windows, the couch, or other furniture). Dogs with separation anxiety are overly excited when you come home.
Cats, on the other hand, will often urinate or defecate on your clothes or bed instead of in the litter box. This behavior allows them to mix their scent with yours in an attempt to calm themselves down, even though it causes us more stress. Cats may also resort to excessive meowing, eating too quickly, and over-grooming (to the point where they pull out their own fur).

If you’re noticing these behaviors in your pets this fall, be sure to consult with your veterinarian. While your pet may be stressed with the start of the school year, he or she may have an underlying medical condition causing similar symptoms. Your veterinarian can determine if the symptoms are truly stress-induced or if another condition is a factor.

Once any medical ailments are ruled out, here are some tips you can use to help your pet get out of their school-year-slum:

  • Designated morning playtime: Relieve some of their pent-up animal energy before you even leave home.  Waking up 15 minutes early to go for a walk, jog, or playtime can make all the difference to your pet’s lonely day.
  • Don’t make a big deal of leaving: If you get emotional about leaving them behind, your pet will sense it.  Play it cool to help keep them calm.
  • Leave them with something to do: Without mental stimulation, our pets can get bored and try to find their own fun or take their stress out on your furniture.  Leaving an interactive toy (like a frozen peanut butter stuffed toy or motorized cat toy) can help the time go by faster for our pets.
  • Evening activities: This is time can be spent playing, grooming, or snuggling with your pet; just be sure to spend time with them after a long day at school or work.  It will remind them that they are an important part of your life.
  • Pet-sitter: Whether this is a neighbor, another family member, or a paid professional, having someone to come over around mid-day can really soothe your pet’s nerves.  This breaks up the time that they are left alone and gives them some social interaction, even if it’s not with you.
  • Doggie daycare: Sometimes dropping your dog off only once or twice a week at a daycare can make all the difference.  Socializing with other dogs and having lots of playtime will tire them out both mentally and physically.

Here at Sandstone Animal Hospital, we understand how stressful life changes can be for our pets and are here to help.  We offer full physical exams and offer a wide range of diagnostic testing, prevention plans, and treatment options for both behavioral problems and medical conditions.  We want to make sure that your pet is happy AND healthy and are ready to answer any questions or concerns you have to develop the best health plan for you and your pet.  Give us a call at 440-234-6336 to set up an appointment and make sure your pet is just as ready for school as you are!