Tips for Easing Your Pet Through Back to School Anxiety

Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM on Aug. 27, 2015

Parents across the land are rejoicing: it’s back to school time! But in the midst of our revelry let’s not forget the ones who find Back to School more distressing than we do:

Not the kids. They’ll manage. I’m talking about your pets.

Over the summer, our dogs, cats, and other companion animals got to enjoy us for long stretches of time. They may have even joined us on vacation. And now that fall has rolled around and it’s back to the old routine of work and school, some of us may find that our pets are displaying more anxiety than usual.

Here are a few tips to help ease the back-to-school transition:

  1. Get a new routine and stick to it as much as possible. Pets find comfort in predictable routine, which is why they stress out when it changes abruptly in the fall. The sooner they are able to recognize and predict the new routine, the more comfortable they will be.
  1. Don’t let their attention time fall by the wayside. It’s super easy to skip those long walks when the pressure of fall sports and homework starts to rear its ugly head, but your pet needs the attention now more than ever. Don’t let your day get so crazy that you can’t take a quick walk with your dog or play with your cat for a little bit. Keeping your pet active will help minimize unwanted boredom-related behaviors.
  1. Hire a pet walker if you’re gone for long stretches. A mid-day bit of attention and love can go a long way. If you go this route, make sure you check your pet sitter’s background and ensure they are licensed and bonded.
  1. If your pet has significant anxiety issues, there are some easily obtained, gentle products that you can use at home that are not prescription anxiety meds (which are sometimes used for severely affected pets). Some of my favorites include:
    1. Thundershirt: This pressure wrap is often recommended by behaviorists for pets suffering from thunderstorm phobia, separation anxiety, and vet anxiety. It works by sustaining gentle, constant pressure over the chest.
    2. Feliway and Adaptil: These are products for cats and dogs that work by releasing appeasing pheromones that have a calming effect on the pet. They are available in various forms, such as sprays, diffusers, and collars.
    3. Through a Dog’s Ear and Through a Cat’s Ear: Classical pianist Lisa Spector paired up with sound researcher Joshua Leeds to use the latest research in order to produce music that would have a calming effect on dogs and cats. The field of psychoacoustics studies how music and sound affect the nervous system, and the outcome is this wonderful series.  I use this all the time: in home, in the clinic, and with my hospice clients.

Anyone else have pets who suffer the back to school blues? What’s worked for you to get the pep back in their step?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Image: Anna Hoychuk / Shutterstock

Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


Jessica Vogelsang, DVM, is a person who loves too many topics to be able to stick to one descriptor: writing, dogs, communication, cats,...

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