Back To School Pet Basics!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

Students are racing back to school during August and September each year. Whether you are heading to junior or senior high school; or, onward to college, there are considerations regarding pet management, and more.

First of all, note that many times, changes in our home schedules may directly impact our pets. Your time commitments as a family addressing school schedules will influence how you manage your pets at home. It may mean they spend more time in a crate or holding area, and that you have less absolute time to play and interact. Schedule changes might mean less exercise and more weight gain for Fido. Pets get bored and may even become notably distressed with household activity changes. This is particularly noted in cats who do not accept change very easily at all. These issues need to be recognized and hopefully, family members will recognize and address special new needs.

A solution is best addressed in your own reorganization of time and commitment to your pets’ emotional and husbandry needs. Be sure to compensate for an absolute loss in pet contact time with improved quality of time together, either walking, playing or just hanging around together. Be alert to possible changes in your pets’ behaviors. If you see alterations in their potty behaviors or with dinner patterns, make a note and respond to them. Don’t be shy about discussing your concerns with your veterinarian. He/she may offer referral to an animal behavioralist in more dramatic cases. Too often your veterinarian hears stories of animals once house trained, suddenly reacting adversely to house schedule changes and suddenly, potty accidents materialize.

If you are a student on your journey to college, and completely away from home and from your beloved pet, you might consider taking special last days home in spoiling your pet with love and attention. The loss of contact with our pets is not only a burden to the pet, but certainly, impacts the pet owner as well. I have heard of folks who attempt to skype to their pets while away at college, as well.

Students leaving for school often ask about best and most appropriate pets for college. Assuming you explore the rules of your dormitory or apartment, there are many wonderful pet scenarios for college settings. Again, time commitment at school often compromises what you can offer to a pet relationship. Dogs and cats may not prove as best pet choices, unless you are in an appropriate housing space where roommates may help with husbandry care obligations as well as offering time and attention for your pets, to be shared. Other pet options that may serve well, even in dormitory settings, and if allowed by their house rules, can include reptiles, birds, fishes or laboratory pets. These pets generally fit into small housing units. They generally take much less time on your part as a pet owner, as they do not typically require the same level of ‘hands on’ time. Overall, their husbandry needs, that include caging, bedding, feeding, play objects and even healthcare, may greatly reduce the financial burden to you as a student pet owner.

People are often surprised with the degree of engagement one can achieve with these sorts of pet categories. Even an active, creatively designed fish tank can prove a very exciting and engaging pet experience! Again, the options are many, and it is up to the student to fit a best case scenario to your special life needs.

In summary, I encourage all pet owners, as families or individuals, to consider the influence of time and schedule changes associated with the onset of the school season, on you and your pet. Those changes can impose both physical and behavioral influences to both sides of the coin.

Work out do-able schedules that work for you and your pets. And, be sure to enjoy your school season!

Fondly, Dr. Doug Pernikoff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
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