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Back to School Blues for Fido and Fluffy

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The "dog days" of summer are coming to a close as back to school is upon us. We spend much time preparing our children (and ourselves), yet this transition also affects our pets.

The freedom and attention received during summer vacation abruptly ends at the first day of school. Without warning, schedules shift - coming and going, eating, exercising, freedom may be limited and human companionship lessens. Human playmates of summer suddenly have new interests and friends. All of this can create a great amount of stress and fear in our pets.

This stress adds uncertainty and affects our pets in many ways. It can cause behavior problems such as chewing, soiling in the house, excessive barking with dogs or clawing furniture with cats.

These problems can be annoying to us, but more serious health problems can also occur with your pet. The distressed pet may experience vomiting, diarrhea, skin problems or eating problems. Eating problems may range from not eating at all to eating strange objects such as gravel, dirt, plants, toys, etc. This can lead to emergency medical problems as these objects can easily get caught in the intestinal tract.

Emotionally, pets can also suffer from depression. This can lead to a depressed immune system leading to increased susceptibility to arthritis, heart disease and even cancers.

What can we do to help these important members of our family? If possible, make changes and adjustments slowly, over a period of time. If Fido will be kenneled when the kids go back to school, start kenneling slowly for shorter periods of time before the big day. Also be sure to provide toys or chew sticks to help occupy their time alone.

Avoid abrupt changes especially in eating and diet habits. The first week of school is not the time to change either the time of feeding or type of food. Always be cautious when making any drastic changes to a pet's diet and talk with your veterinarian.

For pets that become overly stressed when being left, there are several holistic remedies available. Bach Flower Remedies are quite commonly used. Aromatherapy can also be useful. Lavender essential oil for example can safely be used around pets to help with calming.

And finally, give your pet the most love and attention you can. Reassurance through regular walks, exercise, playtime and grooming will help your companion make a much smoother "back to school" transition.


Marian Brown is the editor of Holistic Health News and has been involved in holistic health care for people and pets since the early 1990s.

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