By Melissa Kauffman
During these tough times, taking care of our mental health should be a priority. Social distancing is hard for us, but has anyone asked how our pets have been handling it? Many of us are locked in for the majority of the day, but explaining why to our pets is impossible. Not being able to leave the house whenever they want to confuses them. Changing their daily routine can also be a great source of stress.
Though restriction measures vary across the globe, most governments allow a dog walk during the day. However, keeping your pet calm for the rest of the time is physically and mentally demanding.
Change in routine profoundly affects dogs. It can cause agitation, anxiety, aggression or even feelings of isolation. Though cats can feel the effects of the abrupt changes in our lives, they usually don't need supervision at all times of the day. While cats and other small animals are not as affected, they need your attention too.
Before you turn to the vet for help decreasing anxiety symptoms, try to help your pet yourself. A sudden change of routine usually causes the main symptoms. The best thing you can do to help your fur baby is to adopt a new method gradually. Set a new playtime, walk time, nap time, and dinner time gradually, not all at once, and your pet will get used to it step by step. This will keep your pet happier, calmer and more mentally stimulated.
One thing to definitely avoid is to give in to overfeeding your pet during these challenging times. Most pets will be getting less exercise than normal, so it’s important to hold your ground and feed your pet the right amount of calories for their specific breed. If you’re not sure on this, do a quick Google search on your pet’s breed and daily calorie intake for an optimal weight. For example, active Border Collies require a food intake to the equivalent 1400 calories per day, while the typical Chihuahua will require just 280 calories per day.
Whether your pet is anxious, or you just want to calm him or her down, music can help. Take a deep breath and meditate with your fluffy companion. We do this with our shelter residents, piping calming music into their kennels and petting and massaging them. Listening to music helps you feel calm and relaxed. So, why wouldn't it help your pet?
There are numerous ways in which music can ease your pet's anxiety. If you want to revel in relaxing sounds with your dog or cat, play music of certain frequencies. While inconsistent rhythms can cause even more stress, music with unvarying rhythm and soothing, long notes help your dog feel at peace. Don't forget that pets have more sensitive ears than humans. That's why soft sounds like a piano or a guitar incorporated with sounds from nature are ideal for keeping your pet calm.
All pets love getting treats and snacks. However, without stimulation, it can quickly turn into meaningless munching. So, why don't you teach them new tricks to earn those treats? Both cats and dogs love learning tricks, especially if food or praise follows. Don't limit yourself to the basics. Pets love to learn and most are good at following instructions.
Shy but exploration-oriented pets are ideal candidates for learning new tricks. They are determined to get it right. Learning new tricks helps your four-legged friend stay mentally stimulated in the house. It also helps them gain confidence and increase focus. This is a great way to build the bond between a pet parent and the pet.
As most of us are stuck in quarantine and have extra time on our hands, paying more attention to the needs of our fluffy friends comes into focus. Obstacle courses are a great way to have your dog exercise during lockdown. Creating an obstacle course for your dog is exciting and stimulating for them. It helps them reach their true mental and physical potential. You don't have to have professional equipment or a large space to build it. Use the furniture and stuff you already have at your home. Cones, chairs, blankets and toys are more than enough to create entertainment for your pup.
Many owners buy various toys for their pets, but this shouldn’t replace the need to interact with them. It's all fun and games until your dog drops his slobbering ball in your supper or your cat knocks over your wine glass because she needs attention! Interactive play keeps them happy and mentally stimulated.
Both cats and dogs enjoy playing fetch or tug of war. Don't deny them the opportunity to create a bond with you while being mentally engaged. Those aren't the only games you can play with them. Hide and seek, or interactive puzzles are fun for pets and their owners.
If nothing helps your pet calm down during the Coronavirus outbreak, consider turning to a professional for help. The vet can determine the exact cause of the symptoms and help you decrease them. Besides actual advice on how to ease symptoms of anxiety, your vet can provide information about everything you need to know about your pets and COVID-19.
As a last resort, your vet may offer you anxiety-reducing medication for your pet. If you do decide to go that route, following the given instructions is crucial for your pet's health. Once your fluffy friend starts feeling better, consult your veterinarian before you stop giving him medication. When the treatment is over, don't forget to take your pet(s) to regular check-ups and indulge in their daily activities.
Adapting to sudden changes in our lives and routines can be hard for us, but demanding and stressful for our beloved animals. That's why keeping them calm and enriched in quarantine is essential if you want your furry friends to be healthy. Even though you're spending more time at the house, that isn't enough to fulfill their needs. Interact with your pets and use this opportunity to build an unbreakable bond.