Heading back to school can be tough for your kids, but also for your pets. Whether you enjoyed leisurely summer days or a schedule jam-packed with outdoor activities, back-to-school time means a significant change to your pet’s daily routine. By implementing our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team’s back-to-school tips, you can help your four-legged friend cope with the start of a new school year.

#1: Introduce your pet to schedule changes several weeks early

When you have your pet on a routine, they feel safe and secure. Abrupt changes to your cat’s schedule can be so disconcerting that they can trigger feline idiopathic cystitis, causing your feline friend to urinate all over the house.

Rather than waking up much earlier and rushing through your morning routine on the first day of school, ease into the change. To help prepare the entire family for the new wake-up time, begin setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day. We know it’s tough! When planning your school-year schedule, determine the amount of time you will need to feed and walk your pet each day. Before the family leaves for work and school, your pet should ideally have at least 10 to 15 minutes of playtime and exercise, and ample time to eliminate outdoors. 

Your evening schedule is also likely to change, and you must ensure someone is assigned to feed and exercise your pet. Although your furry pal still requires daily exercise and interaction, you may not have the time to take a long hike each evening as your family juggles homework, dinner, and earlier bedtimes. However, plan accordingly to ensure your pet has time to eat and burn energy before bedtime. So all your pet’s needs are met, delegate a pet-care responsibility to family members who are best suited to doing these tasks.

#2: Schedule daily mental and physical activities for your pet

A bored pet is often in trouble. Your four-legged friend needs plenty of opportunities to exercise their cognitive and intellectual skills, as well as their muscles and joints. Although your life will become much busier during the school year, you still need to make time to meet your pet’s social interaction and physical exercise needs. 

The school-year schedule will likely prohibit you from spending as much time as you’d like playing with your pet. Consider the following alternatives to one-on-one time with your four-legged friend:

  • Provide interactive toys — To help break up long periods when your pet is alone, give them toys that will entertain them. Robotic mice or electronic ball launchers encourage your furry pal to get up and move, distracting them from boredom. 
  • Switch to food puzzles — If your pet is prone to gulping down their meal and begging for more, consider switching to a food puzzle to engage their mind and appetite for longer than the mere seconds they spend devouring a bowl of food.
  • Hire a pet sitter — Pets with separation anxiety or high energy drives often need more human interaction and playtime than what a jam-packed school and work schedule allow. If your pet is unhappy being alone for several hours each day, hire someone to walk, play, groom, or simply hang out with them on the couch.
  • Bring them to doggy daycare — Some dogs are social butterflies and love interacting with their canine companions. Doggy daycare is a great option for these energetic, friendly dogs, as it provides them with a supervised outlet for fulfilling their physical, mental, and social needs while your youngsters are at school and you are at work.

#3: Keep your pet away from school-related toxins

Hectic schedules mean less time for home cleaning and organizing, which can increase your pet’s opportunities to ingest toxins and dangerous items. However, make a point of pet-proofing your home before school starts, and keeping hazards out of reach as the school year progresses. Prevent your pet from getting into these potential hazards:

  • Unattended backpacks
  • Discarded lunch boxes
  • Misplaced jackets
  • Arts-and-crafts supplies
  • After-school snacks
  • Electrical cords
  • Batteries
  • Small toys
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications
  • Albuterol inhalers

Teach your children that by picking up after themselves they help keep your pet safe. Explain the dangers of sugar-free gum, moldy food left in a forgotten lunch box, calculator batteries, laptop charging cords, and tiny toys left in a jacket pocket. These items can cause your pet toxicity, burns, gastrointestinal (GI) obstructions, and other serious health issues. 

As you schedule your children’s physicals and vaccinations before they return to school, remember to also update your pet’s health needs. To schedule your pet’s wellness examination give our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team a call.