When Pet Parents are Staying at Home

I am sure you have seen the funny memes.  Dogs super excited to have companionship all day and cats secretly wishing all these people would leave the house.  We have too.  But the truth is, our pet’s lives are as disrupted as ours.

As a Fear Free Certified Practice, pet behavior and reducing stress has always been at the forefront of all we do.  Because of that knowledge, we thought we could share some tips on keeping your pets happier during these stressful times.

Tip #1: Routine is key 

Pets are creatures of habit.  They wake up asking to “go potty” at the same time every day and ready to eat soon after.  When pet parents do not have to leave home to work or have no regular routine, the pet will become confused as to when to anticipate these daily events.  For pet and human wellbeing try to keep your normal schedule.  Rise, eat, sleep and exercise at the same time as usual.  When life does return to pre-Pandemic it will be simple to jump back in for you and your pets.

Tip #2: Enrichment time

With more time at home with your pets, you can take advantage of some mental and physical stimulation…especially for those “couch potato” pets who you have been trying to slim down.  Make time for play, whether throwing a ball or having kitty chase a pretend mouse are both healthy practices.  Be careful to use safe toys and to not over do it with elderly or arthritic pets.  There are several good videos on Fear Free Happy Homes – a free pet owner web source for good pet mental and physical health. Here is a link to our favorite enrichment video.

Tip #3: Watch the Treats! 

We know they are adorable and that you love them – but too many treats will quickly add pounds to your pet.  Being home more means more opportunity to spoil your fur family with a bite or two of what you or your kids are eating.  Instead of a chip or a store-bought snack, try substituting a carrot chip or a fresh green bean.  These snacks are healthy and crunchy, and dogs usually love them.  Even too much of a good thing can cause some tummy upset, so keep the treats to a minimum and instead offer words of praise and a belly rub.

Tip #4: Too much Togetherness

Many veterinarians are concerned that when pet owners return to their normal workday that pets will manifest a condition known as “separation anxiety”.  This is a mental health problem manifested in howling, excessive panting and even destruction, when pets are left alone.   It is important to understand that THIS IS NOT DONE OUT OF SPITE but is a real mental health issue that needs to be addressed.  Practice leaving pets at home some when you go out for a walk.  Never make a big deal of leaving the house as your pet learns to become anxious about your departure and mentally “ramps up”.  Practice going in and out for short times – 5 or 10 minutes, leave from different doors, do not take your keys or purse as these routines are observed by pets as “leaving behaviors”.  All of our Fear Free Certified team can offer you helpful advice if your pet is manifesting any of these negative behaviors.  Just give us a call.  Here is an interesting article on Separation Anxiety.

Tip #5: Homebody Activities 

Family activities like jigsaw puzzles are saving our sanity but little pieces can cause big problems.  The cardboard in a puzzle piece will probably pass through if eaten but other arts and crafts components have proven to be a hazard.  If you have joined the baking trend, make sure your ingredients are out of reach. Yeast, baking chocolate, xylitol, raisins and grapes, are just a few items that can cause harm.  Be cautious about small kid’s toys like Legos, small cars or even golf balls as these are all items vets have surgically removed from dogs.  Threaded needles and string are common items ingested and then removed from cats.  Gorilla Glue when contacted by water expands and hardens so keep this and all glue containers away from pets and kids!  Play and have fun together but be careful about supplies in reach of your pets.

Tip #6: Cleaning and Disinfecting  

I don’t know about you, but my hands are like sandpaper from all the hand washing.  With COVID 19 lurking in the environment all of us are taking cleaning to a new level.  But the things we use to clean and disinfect can be harmful to pets.  Dogs have extremely sensitive noses, so much so that they are now being trained to sniff out Coronavirus carriers.  That being the case, harsh chemical smells are torture to a dog’s wonderful nose.  Do clean, we want you safe and healthy, but maybe you can move the pets to another space or even outside while scrubbing your house.  Let them back after everything dries and airs out.  Remember that pets are also exposed to chemicals by walking and lying down on surfaces so please wait until things are good and dry before letting them come back.  

We hope your human and pet family are staying safe during these trying times.  Things are certainly different as we navigate physical distancing, but know we can’t wait to see you face to face and that your pets are treated with the same kindness and care they receive when you are in the exam room with them.  Our entire team is dedicated to having our patients have “happy veterinary visits” and we remain committed to that core value every day. 

Caring Hearts Animal Hospital is open, and our team is here to help if you need us.