Back-to-School Pet Safety

Updated: 10/27/22
Dog being carried by child in their backpack

After spending an entire summer with the whole family together, your dog or cat may be affected by the abrupt change in routine once your kids go back to school. Not only will they have to deal with a new schedule, but there are safety concerns to take into consideration for pets at home alone. Here are some tips for a smooth, back-to-school transition for your pet.

Change in Routine

Help ease your pet into the change their routine by practicing separation early. Leave your pet home alone for short periods of time and gradually increase the time you’re away over several weeks. Make sure to stay calm and not make a big fuss when leaving home as this can increase your pet’s anxiety.

Consider what changes there will be to your pet’s routine. Will their mealtimes be changing? Will you need to take your dog on a walk earlier in the morning? Will there be longer periods of time in between your dog’s bathroom breaks? Try to mimic the same routine you will have once your children return to school. For instances where your pet cannot wait long between bathroom breaks, you may want to consider hiring a dog walker or a pet sitter so they can relieve themselves.

Ease Boredom

Continue to make sure your pet is getting enough exercise throughout the day. Physical activity is incredibly important for our pets’ physical and mental health, so aim to get up a bit earlier in order to allow time for a long walk or play session with your pet.

Before you and your children leave for the day, give your pet a treat or toy when you leave to create a positive association with your departure and help curb their boredom for when you are gone. You can give your pet an interactive activity, such as hiding bits of food around the home, filling a Kong with small treats, or sprinkling a toy with catnip.

As your pet may not be used to the silence of an empty home, it can also be helpful to have background noise or music playing while you are gone.

Beware of Safety Hazards

As your pet will be spending time at home by themselves, make sure to keep them safe by pet-proofing your home. Make sure any toxins, such as medications or cleaning products, are locked away or kept out of easily accessible cabinets or drawers. Garbage cans and laundry hampers should have lids so that your pet cannot get into them. Avoid having loose cords or wires around the home, including cords on curtains or blinds.

Be aware of potential toxins in your children’s lunch or school supplies. Common pet toxins include sugarless gum that contains xylitol, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, moldy food, cold packs, and any medications your children may take such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication or inhalers. Arts & craft supplies can also be harmful, even non-toxic products, as they can cause foreign body obstructions if eaten. Teach your children to place their lunchbox or backpack in an area that your pet cannot reach once they’ve returned home from school.

Signs of separation anxiety

Be on the lookout for signs of separation anxiety in your pet. For dogs, signs can include excessive barking or whining, urinating or defecating indoors, destructive chewing, trembling, drooling, digging, scratching, or attempting to escape. For cats, signs can include trembling, withdrawing, hiding, urinating or defecating outside the litterbox, a change in mood, or attempting to escape.

If you find your pet is still experiencing anxiety after using these tips, talk to your veterinarian. You may be referred to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist or certified trainer who can help your pet with this new transition.

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