The WORLD, September/October 2009, Volume XV Issue 5by Dr. Kandi Norrell
Q: As the dog days of summer come to a close, teenagers will be heading off to college and youngsters will be catching the bus each morning for school. Pet owners themselves may also have to return to working eight hours a day, leaving a lonely dog or cat at home that is confused by the changing household dynamics. What can a pet sitter do to help?
A: Dr. Kandi Norrell, clinical assistant professor and head of the new “community practice” primary care department at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana.: It is important for pet owners to realize that it is not unusual for cats and dogs to go through a funk when everyone heads back to school. The disruption in routine can be more traumatic for some pets versus others. For example, the change in pace may be particularly difficult if the dog in question is a herding breed. These breeds tend to think of the children in the house as their “flock” to take care of, leaving the pet feeling lost or bored when the kids are absent.
Some of the signs a dog may show if it is having a difficult time acclimating include separation anxiety, destructive behavior, inactivity, depression and even stress-induced diarrhea.
Although dogs are sometimes easier to read, cats may display more subtle signs. Some of the signs of emotional depression in cats include lethargy (sleeping more than usual), changes in vocalization (more or less, dependent on the cat), and occasionally behavioral issues like spraying or inappropriate elimination outside the litter box.
To prevent a dog or cat from experiencing a rough transition period between the summer and fall, there are a few steps pet owners can implement – and pet sitters can help. Most importantly, start sooner rather than later. It’s more difficult if the children have already gone off to college before a new routine is started.
Here are a few tips to prevent the “Back-to-School Blues:”
On a final note, some owners consider getting another animal as a companion for the one left at home. Owners need to think about what is best for their dog or cat, rather than their guilt of leaving a pet home alone. Adding a pet into a household may cause more stress than benefit, depending on the family and the current pet(s). If pet owners do decide to add another animal to the household, a pet sitter can help them to plan ahead and make sure time permits for acclimation of the new pet to the household and for the current pet to accept and bond with its new pal before the pets are expected to make adjustments to being left alone.
Experts from the College of Veterinary Medicine regularly post pet healthcare information at the college’s Web site. To view archived information, visit www.cvm.uiuc.edu/petcolumns.
©Copyright 2011 by Pet Sitters International. All rights reserved. For reprint permission for this article, contact EllenPrice@petsit.com.
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