Pet Care Isolation Check List
Guest post by Jennifer Toof, Manager, Programs and Education, Ontario SPCA and Humane Society
As much as staying home during COVID-19 can be a difficult adjustment for many people, our companion animals may also be finding the change of routine challenging. Pets are truly an essential part of the family for millions of people, and it’s important that the entire family stays healthy during this time – both physically and mentally.
It might sound like a dream come true for our pets to have their people at home, but a change in the status quo for you can have a dramatic effect on them emotionally. Your everyday life is much different than it was a month ago, and so is theirs. Schedules have changed, tensions may be high, and normal routines have been disrupted. Some of you may be experiencing fear, anxiety, stress and frustration, and your pets may be experiencing these emotions, too.
This unsettled environment can lead to unwanted behaviours developing as your pet tries to cope with the new normal. In this post you will find tips to help support you and your furry family member with “Emergency Planning,” “Daily Routines and Quiet Time,” “Managing Meal Time and Snacks,” as well as some great activities for independent play, and other enrichment ideas for indoor or outdoor spaces.
Along with this blog resource, we will be focusing on this content in a weekly video, posted every Friday – so make sure to follow our social media pages so you don’t miss out.
Have an emergency plan for your pets!
My “Oliver” is a senior dog who requires regular medication, and I was concerned if I would be able to get his supply, and what I should do if his health starts to decline. I was able to ease my fears by checking in with my veterinarian and finding out what services they were still providing. I was able to pay for Ollie’s prescription over the phone and pick it up at a scheduled time in a drop-box area at the clinic to ensure physical distancing. They also assured me that they are also available to provide emergency services if required.
Emergency check list
- Check in with your veterinarian. Most veterinary hospitals have modified hours of operation, and may have changed what services they are able to provide. It’s important you know who to call, where to go, and what you can expect when you arrive, in case of emergency, or for routine care.
- Identify someone – a trustworthy family member/neighbour/friend, who is willing to care for your pet in the event that you are no longer able to.
- Prepare a list of instructions for daily care, include contact information for the assigned caregiver, and ensure that this information is easily accessible to whomever may need to make arrangements on your behalf. Be sure to list any special care your pet requires, such as medications, specific diets, or other special needs
- Try to have a two–week supply of food, treats, or medications on hand at all times.
Daily Routine and Quiet Time:
If we change our pet’s routine dramatically, especially for an extended periods of time, they will have a more difficult adjustment to face when you are back to work, school, or my favourite – shoe shopping!
I am sure many of you have seen the various funny memes of pets asking their people to go back to work and leave them alone. And as much as we just want to cuddle them all day, we cannot forget that our pets had a routine of their own that we are now disrupting. Just watch “The Secret Life of Pets” and you’ll understand.
But, in all seriousness, just like most of us, our pets are comforted by a regular routine, such as time with us, time apart, walk time, mealtime, and uninterrupted rest, to give a few examples. Raising their expectations too high (like going on 20 walks a day) will make for a more difficult adjustment later!
- Create a consistent daily routine. Knowing what to expect and when, gives our pets a sense of control in their environment and supports their emotional health.
- Institute “nap time” or “quiet time” throughout the day. This should be a time for rest, away from you (not under the desk, or perhaps on it, in your home office)
- Go outside for a few minutes and return. They need to remember that you can leave, and you always come back – no big deal.
- Provide self–entertaining toys, or chewables – they can do some things on their own!
- Plan new daily rituals where you can include the whole family, such as indoor games like “hide and seek,” baking your own treats, building food puzzles, and trick training!
Managing mealtime and snacks:
I would be lying if I said I have never sat on the couch and shared a snack with my furry friend beside me giving me the “puppy dog eyes.” But I keep those occasions very limited, and it is important that we consider the overall health of our pets when preparing meals or handing out goodies!
- Mealtime is the most anticipated event of the day and should be given at roughly the same time daily. For example, I use a two–hour window to fluctuate timing – dinner is served between 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. That way no one is already drooling or begging at exactly 4:55 p.m. in anticipation.
- When it comes to snacks and treats, stick to treats that are healthy for your pet. This one is hardest for me, because if I’m in the kitchen, so are my dogs, and they can be very persuasive.
- Prepare snacks ahead of time – I keep baby carrots and apple slices in my freezer for a quick, healthy bite!
- Balance treats and snacks with their daily dietary requirements – I hold back a handful of kibble from breakfast to share with them throughout the day. It’s an easy trick to make them think they are getting more, when they are really getting the same daily allotment of food.
- Using food puzzles makes breakfast last a wee bit longer, helps them learn problem solving, and is super engaging for your pet!
- Try not to give too many “freebies” – balance the free flow of treats with a bit of learning!
This extra time at home is a wonderful opportunity to increase the human-animal bond with your pet, and give them all the love! Be sure to stay tuned in for weekly videos with me every Friday, to get more information on these tips.
Visit Shelterhealthpro.com for great ideas for “do-it-yourself” indoor and outdoor games, activities and training fun!
Wish to thank everyone involved
I wish to thank everyone involved in the care and rescue of animals, especially volunteers.