As a new school year approaches, families have a lot to prepare before the first bell rings. Life gets busy quickly once the kids are back in school, and in all the hustle and bustle, we need to keep in mind that all the changes affect our pets too. Pets must adjust to the new schedule and extra time home alone. In addition, you should become aware of and protect your pet from the hazards that accompany the back-to-school season by following our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team’s do’s and don’ts of back-to-school pet safety. 

DO keep school supplies away from your pet

These days, most school supplies are nontoxic, but you may want to keep an eye out for product packaging that includes the letters AP (i.e., approved product) to be sure the item is safe. But, remember that nontoxic school supplies can still be hazardous to your pet’s health. Crayons, colored pencils, and glue sticks can look like fun chew toys to your curious pet, but these items can cause stomach upset, choking, or an intestinal blockage if your pet ingests them. To keep your pet away from these hazardous school supplies, remind your child to put away school supplies when they are not using them. 

DON’T pack lunch box foods that are toxic to your pet

The healthy foods you give your child to fuel their learning may be dangerous to your pet. Always be mindful that your pet may become ill if they ingest the following common lunch box foods such as: 

  • Sugar-free gums and candies 
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes  
  • Raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Caffeinated foods and drinks 
  • Expired or moldy foods 

To prevent your pet from eating dangerous leftovers, ensure your children empty their lunch box trash as soon as they arrive home from school each day. In addition, remind your children to tell their visiting friends they should not share table scraps with your pet. 

DO keep your pet safe when the kids head out

Avoid adding heartbreak to the back-to-school scramble by preventing your pet’s escape. To keep your pet from getting loose, keep a close eye on the door as your child rushes out of the house to catch the school bus. 

If you drive your child to school and bring your pet along, ensure they are secured inside the vehicle by a harness or in a crate. In addition, never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle. A parked vehicle’s interior temperature can reach 110 degrees in 20 minutes when the air temperature is 80 degrees. Leaving the vehicle’s windows open a crack will not provide your pet relief. Leave your pet cool and safe at home when you plan to meet your child inside the school or to run an errand.  

DON’T leave your pet with nothing to do

After the summer, your pet is likely accustomed to having people around all day, and enjoying plenty of play opportunities and adventures. If your pet will be home alone all day when school starts, they may struggle to adjust to the slower pace. To help your pet adjust to being home alone, ensure they have plenty of engaging toys to help them pass the time without resorting to destructive behavior, such as shredding the couch pillows. Provide your pet these entertaining options: 

  • Let them hunt — Your pet’s natural instinct is to hunt, so encourage them to exercise this behavior by spreading some snacks, kibble, or toys throughout the house. Your pet will enjoy following their nose to hunt down these fun surprises. 
  • Keep goodbyes short and sweet — Your pet may feel sad to see your family leave the house each morning. To help your pet avoid that lonesome feeling, distract them as you leave the house for the day by giving them a tasty treat to focus on. Fill a Kong with xylitol-free peanut butter, freeze overnight, and give it to your pet before you leave the house. Your pet will be so busy enjoying their frozen treat, they will not notice as you close the door. 
  • Give your pet a view — To pass the time alone, many pets like watching the world outside. If your pet is not triggered by people and pets passing by, leave open some curtains, and let them enjoy the view. 
  • Add some noise — After a busy summer with constant commotion, your pet might find the house extra quiet when they are home alone. Leave on the television or radio for your pet when the house is empty. They may find background talk or music soothing when played at a low volume during the day. 

DO watch your pet for separation anxiety signs

Some pets have a difficult time adjusting to being left home alone, and may suffer from separation anxiety. Common separation anxiety signs include:

  • Barking and howling 
  • Scratching, chewing, or digging
  • Urinating or defecating inappropriately
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Excessive panting
  • Attempting escape 

Here’s to a smooth, happy back-to-school transition! However, if your pet is struggling with the change in routine, and you suspect they have separation anxiety, contact our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team so we can establish your pet’s treatment plan.