As the new school year starts, you are likely busy getting your children prepared for their first day. But, before the school buses start rolling, you may want to consider the effect of the upcoming schedule and lifestyle changes on your pet. Our team at Southwest Vet wants to make this time as stress free as possible, so we are providing information on common issues that pets encounter when the kids return to school.

#1: Increased traffic is a danger for your pet

Traffic increases exponentially when school is in session, which can pose a serious threat to your pet. Follow these tips to safeguard them.

  • Keep them leashed — Always keep your pet leashed on outings, especially when near roadways. Ensure the collar fits well, and the leash is in good condition. If you use a retractable leash, lock the line at a set length, to prevent your pet from bolting toward traffic. Harnesses are great for pets who have displayed their escape skills.
  • Teach traffic safety — Train your pet to sit when you reach a curb, and to wait for your command to proceed. Use treats to reinforce the behavior, and create a special command that you signal when the road is safe to cross.
  • Build a fence — If possible, fence your yard to allow your dog to spend time outdoors and still be safe. Before giving your dog free range in the fenced yard, ensure that all gates are secure, and no fence sections are broken.
  • Practice fetch safety — When playing fetch, throw the ball or stick away from the road. Your pet can get so excited and focused on the game that they may inadvertently run toward heavy traffic. Prevent this by playing away from roads.

#2: School supplies and lunchbox items can be dangerous for your pet

Several common items that you may pack in your child’s lunch box or back pack may pose a risk for your pet. Ensure your pet cannot raid lunch boxes or back packs.

  • Grapes and raisins — The mode of action is unclear, but these foods can cause acute, potentially fatal, kidney disease in your pet.
  • Xylitol — Xylitol causes a profound insulin release in dogs that can result in hypoglycemia, seizures, and liver failure.
  • Small objects — Objects such as erasers, crayons, and paper clips can be a choking hazard, or cause intestinal obstruction.
  • Art supplies — Ensure all your child’s art supplies carry an approved product (AP) or cautionary label (CL). These products are non-toxic.
  • Albuterol inhalers — If your pet chews on the inhaler, they can puncture the plastic, resulting in an overdose. Signs include hyperactivity, dilated pupils, panting, vomiting, and tremors. 
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) meds — These medications are dangerous for your pet. If ingested, they cause signs including drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, and seizures.

#3: Your busy family can be a danger for your pet

Your family’s busy schedule may keep you from caring for your pet appropriately. Take a few precautions to ensure your pet gets the care they need.

  • Stick to a routine — Set a specific time each day to feed, exercise, and bond with your pet. Include your children, if possible, so the whole family is involved.
  • Make basic needs a priority — Mark your calendar and set alarms on your phone to remind yourself about veterinary appointments and dates when your pet’s parasite prevention medication is due. Also, ensure you keep their food and pet supplies in stock.
  • Keep your pet mentally engaged — Take time each day to groom and play with your pet. You can teach them new tricks, or schedule training sessions to ensure they stay mentally stimulated.

#4: Separation anxiety can be a danger for your pet

Suddenly being left alone for the day could trigger separation anxiety. This is a serious condition that can cause extreme emotional distress and physical issues for your pet. Signs include vocalizing excessively when left alone, urinating or defecating inappropriately, destroying property, and trying to escape. Steps you can take to help prevent separation anxiety include:

  • Exercise — Vigorously exercise your pet before you leave for the day, so they are tired and ready for a nap.
  • Distraction — Leave intriguing toys for your pet, and switch out the toys frequently so they do not get bored. Food-puzzle toys are excellent at keeping your pet focused while you say your goodbyes.
  • Prevent drama — Ensure your family does not dramatize their departure or arrival. If your pet believes their human considers the situation stressful, they will mirror this emotion and become anxious. 
  • Hire a pet sitter — Hire someone to come by during the day to take your pet for a walk, or to play with them.
  • Alone time — Before the school year begins, get your pet accustomed to being alone. Let them spend time alone with a favorite toy or yummy treat while you and your family are in another room or outside.

Returning to school is an exciting time for the family, but not necessarily for your pet. By taking steps to safeguard them, your whole family can enjoy the new school year. If you have concerns that your pet may be affected by separation anxiety, do not hesitate to contact our low-stress team at Southwest Vet to schedule an appointment.