(This story is sponsored by Tia Health.)
For dog owners, self-isolation and working from home has included more walks, cuddling, and belly rubs than usual.
Since many of us count on our pets to lift our spirits during this time of uncertainty, we also need to be mindful of their well-being and happiness. Similarly to most people, dogs appreciate a somewhat predictable daily routine, which means that they too are feeling impacted by COVID-19.
Veterinarian Dr. Nadia Hirani offers four different ways that you can ease your dog’s pandemic-related anxieties and keep them healthy in self-isolation. For those who are staying close to home, she’s available for an e-consultation through the Tia Health website.
Keep them well exercised but don’t overdo it
You may have seen the meme circulating social media that shows an over-walked dog hiding from their owner when it’s time for another walk. It’s important to consider that even though walking and running passes time while self-isolating, the sudden increase in exercise for your dog could be harmful.
“Walking is encouraged but running, jumping, or rigorous play should be introduced or increased in moderation to avoid any injuries to their joints, back, heart, and lungs,” says Dr. Hirani. “Should this pandemic persist into the summer, the real caution will be for heat stroke.”
Dr. Hirani educates her clients on the symptoms their dog may exhibit if they are being over-exercised. These include: injuries to their paw pads, lameness of one limb or the shifting of lameness between limbs, muscle tenderness or soreness, back pain, extreme fatigue and exhaustion, or difficulties breathing.
Like humans, dogs need the occasional rest day between workouts.
In terms of how much exercise your sweet dog should be getting, the answer will differ depending on the breed. “Our flat-faced dogs will be less tolerant than our working dogs,” says Dr. Hirani. “When in doubt, collaborate with your veterinarian and veterinary team to prevent acute injuries or exacerbating an existing injury or conditions like arthritis.”
Teach your dog a new trick for mental stimulation
As much as your dog loves having you manage its dedicated Instagram account, you have to keep them intellectually stimulated. Our furry companions love to learn new tricks and want to feel as if they have a job within the household—that’s why you see dogs wearing tiny backpacks on hikes.
“Training new commands and enforcing their good manners are all ways of mentally stimulating our pets,” says Dr. Hirani. She suggests the “Cupcake Challenge”. Fill an empty cupcake pan with dog treats, cover each hole with a tennis ball, and let your furry friend use their nose and brain to find the treats.
You can also purchase maze feeders, treat balls, and pup-friendly puzzles on Amazon.
Try to keep them on their usual diet and routine
“What I’m seeing more of during essential visits is acute abdominal upset from dietary indiscretions,” says Dr. Hirani. “We’re feeding them more table scraps and treats, or they’re out and about helping themselves to scraps or foreign objects that are not normally a part of their diet or routine.”
Even though your dog loves when you give them the last piece of your takeout pizza crust, their stomach and waistline would rather do without. The dreadful “Quarantine 15” applies to pets as well.
Make sure your dog gets alone time
Dog owners should be making a conscious effort to leave their dogs alone for a few hours each day to avoid increased separation anxiety once they return to work.
“I am anticipating a steep incline of separation anxiety, socialization, and obedience regressions, as well as an onslaught of untrained, unwanted young dogs that were acquired as pups, as a pandemic distraction,” says Dr. Hirani.
For anxious dogs, Dr. Hirani suggests speaking with your veterinarian about options like pheromone treatment, calming music, and thunder shirts.
If there are young children in your household who feel antsy from homeschooling and the lack of activity, ensure that your dog has a designated area to decompress.
Canadian’s can arrange an e-consultation with Dr. Nadia Hirani by scheduling an online or phone appointment through the telehealth platform Tia Health.