As the summer slowly winds down, I often ask pet owners whether their pet had a good summer. Some pets have followed their families on far-away vacations, while others have enjoyed weekly trips to the local beach. So much time during an annual physical exam is spent discussing the overall health of our patients, that emotional and behavioral health sometimes gets pushed aside of the immediate focus.
As veterinarians, we often times don’t hear about a pet’s behavioral or emotional health until things have gone awry at home. Some of these behavioral changes manifest as separation anxiety, aggression, or inappropriate elimination, to name a few.
Not only are these behavioral changes stressful for pet owners, but the stress and implication on the emotional health on our pets is significant and deserves to be addressed appropriately.
Talk to your veterinarian and start with a physical exam. Your veterinarian will discuss the behavioral issue and help determine a plan of action. There may be some underlying medical problems that can make behavioral problems worse. For example, urinary tract infections can cause pets to inappropriately eliminate in the house, so depending on the type of behavioral change, your veterinarian may want to submit some tests before discussing a more thorough behavioral plan.
I encourage all pet owners to make time during the day- even 15 to 20 minutes a day, to spend one-on-one time with their pet. This is a great bonding experience and can be wonderful exercise time. Consider playing fetch, or taking a new route on a walk or jog. If your pet is a cat, think about the fun they will have chasing and batting the toy around the room with you. Perhaps your cat is less playful but would enjoy a nice brush through her coat before bedtime. Just like us, our pets need enriching environments and activities to stay mentally healthy as well as physically healthy. Don’t hesitate to enlist the help of your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s mental and behavioral health.