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Back-To-School Season Can Be Stressful For Pets. A Vet Shares How You Can Help Your Furry Friends Feel Better

QUEENSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) -- The back-to-school season can be a big adjustment for students of all ages and their families, but it's not just humans that can suffer the blues.

As families get back into their school-year routines, pets can begin to develop separation anxiety, which can affect their health, said Dr. Marianne Bailey with the Queenstown Veterinary Hospital.

"You may see an array of different behaviors," she said. "Your dog may be a little bit reluctant to eat breakfast in the morning when all the kids are up eating breakfast and running around the house getting ready, your cat may seem more interested in attention or may be a little bit more aloof, not so interested."

When it comes to missed meals, Dr. Bailey said if a pet skips consecutive meals, especially if they skip three or more, they should be seen by a veterinarian.

Many pet parents may feel like giving Fido or Fluffy extra treats will snap them out of their funk, but Dr. Bailey said that too can have negative consequences.

Instead, she said, spend more time with them doing something they like to do, like playing with toys or going for walks.

"Most of our pets are already overweight and we don't want to encourage that continuing of eating just because we're acting different," she said. "Find something they like, whether that's a toy that you have already or buy them one of their favorite toys. If you have a cat that likes a certain type of toy or laser pointer, get that out."

It can also be difficult for pets to cope with a family member going off to college. In that case, it may take longer for the blues to wear off.

"We see pets that lose a couple of pounds when kids go off to college, so just think about the things that your kids were doing with those pets," she said. "Were they taking them for walks, were they in charge of playtime? What were the things that they were doing that the pets really enjoyed and try to do some of those things."

While it might be stressful, there are also moments that may provide a little relief for everyone. Dr. Bailey said her cats will climb into the kids' backpacks when they come out of storage for the summer.

"Next thing you know, the cats are in them and they're playing around, they found whatever was in there from the summer, and so just kind of have fun with that," she said.

Most pets will eventually acclimate to the new normal, Dr. Bailey said, adding patience is key.

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