By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — As the state re-opens, Dr. Sarah Peakheart, an assistant clinical professor at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has some advice for pet owners on easing into the routine of returning to work.
“Remember that our pets are in this pandemic storm with us,” Peakheart said. “They have been our companions and support during social isolation. While pets have benefited from the extra attention, after they got used to us being in the house all the time, they now have yet another schedule disruption to adjust to as we head back to work.
Change can be more stressful for some pets than for others, according to Peakheart.
“Puppies, kittens and newly adopted pets may be more prone to experience anxiety-related behavioral issues and illnesses,” she said. “These pets don’t know there is a different ‘normal’ than you being home all day to talk to them, have snacks, go for walks, have snacks, play games, have snacks and show them off at Zoom meetings.
“Senior pets and those with pre-existing anxiety disorders (e.g. separation anxiety, feline idiopathic cystitis) will also be less flexible with yet another disruption to their days”
Peakheart notes that some signs of stress to watch for include changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns, increased activity or attention seeking, increased irritability, destructive behavior, house soiling, or a new or recurring illness.
Some ways to prepare pets for the sudden absence of their human companions include:
- Create their own special safe place: a crate, a room or a gated area. Cats will need a raised hiding/sleeping area, scratching posts and appropriate size (and number) of litter boxes.
- Rotate toys daily (puzzle treat toys are a great attention-getter for your pet).
- Use pheromones to create a calming atmosphere: Adaptil® for dogs and Feliway® for cats.
- Leave pets alone for short periods, slowly increasing the amount of time they spend alone.
- Set and stick to a routine for feeding, walking and bedtime. Set a schedule you can keep when you return to work.
- Spend time with your pet in the evenings as you would after returning to work.
- Leave the TV or radio on if they have become accustomed to background noise. Try iCalmPet™, Spotify or YouTube for pet-specific music.
- Talk to your veterinarian about nutritional and possibly pharmaceutical support.
“As always, if you see any symptoms that worry you, call your veterinarian,” Peakheart said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital remains open to treat emergency cases. The hospital utilizes curbside admission and discharge procedures to protect clients and the college community.”
Located on the Stillwater campus, OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 30 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States and the only veterinary college in Oklahoma.
The college’s Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. The hospital offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association.
For more information, visit vetmed.okstate.edu or call 405-744-7000.