As Victorians face stage four COVID-19 restrictions, pet parents are relying heavily on their four-legged friend for emotional support and companionship during this time.
Animal Medicines Australia’s most recent report reveals 49 per cent of pet owners cited love, affection, and companionship as the number one benefit to pet ownership. New research last month from Guide Dogs Australia states that 81 per cent of Australians relied on their pets for emotional support during COVID-19 restrictions.
To help Victorian pet parents navigate through lockdown 2.0 and make the most of their time indoors and outdoors with their pet, PETstock vet Dr Sasha Nefedova has compiled a helpful guide.
Make time for play
Play is a fun and simple way to relieve stress, so including a five-minute indoor play session with your pet every few hours will positively impact their mental health and wellbeing, as well as yours.
Playing with your pet can also help decrease destructive or unwanted behaviors and improve their social skills.
Show them some love
Spending quality time with your pet will improve your mood and help strengthen your relationship and bring comfort to you and your pet.
Petting your pet can lower your heart rate and theirs too, so engaging with your pet regularly will have a positive impact on their wellbeing, particularly for pets that suffer from anxiety.
There are many ways to make the most out of your one-hour daily exercise limit with your pet, including:
• Take toys to the park – taking balls, frisbees or tug-o-war ropes to the park will keep your dog mentally and physically engaged and work as a valuable tool to strengthen your relationship.
• 30-minute play session – include a 30-minute outdoor play session every day to maximise your time spent outdoors. A short but stimulating session where you engage with your pet will not only be great for them but will act as a way for pet parents to relieve stress or feelings of claustrophobia.
• Go on a bike ride – try something new by taking a bike ride with your dog along a safe and petfriendly bike track, however, please remember to stay within 5km of home.
When your one-hour of outdoor exercise is complete for the day, be creative and use household items to create fun, mentally and physically challenging activities for your pet.
• Pet-friendly treasure hunt – using toys or healthy treats to create an indoor treasure hunt will encourage your pet to use their senses and instinct to search.
• Create an agility course – whether your pet is a dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig, an agility course is a fun way to challenge their mind. Try using shoes as hurdles, socks to create a maze or an ottoman as a step.
• Enrichment toys – toys such as automated laser pointers, food puzzles, Kongs or cat wands give your pet a mentally stimulating ‘job’ that will keep them busy for hours.
• Training sessions – try teaching them a new trick or skill! If they are a puppy, this is a great time to start obedience training.
With grooming salons closed during this period, it’s important to maintain your pets grooming while at home. This could include regular brushing to keep their fur in good condition and prevent matting, bathing with a pet-formulated shampoo and nail trimming.
Pets and facemasks
Now that face masks are mandatory in Victoria, for pets, seeing their owners wear face masks may cause them to feel scared or anxious, particularly for those that are naturally timid or shy.
How to introduce facemasks to pets: Gradually introduce your facemask to your pet – wear the mask partly on your face when you interact with your pet in a familiar and safe space, such as your home. This will help them feel
comfortable leaving for their daily one-hour walk when the full mask is required.
Make positive associations with face masks – using food as a reward is a powerful tool in shaping behaviours. Rewarding your pets when wearing the mask will help build trust and reassure them.
Keep facemask sessions short and sweet – if your pet continues to demonstrate symptoms of anxiety, including shaking, licking of the lips or pacing, remove the mask and try again the next day.
At Home with PETstock
PETstock has also kept its community connected, entertained and supported with the introduction of At Home With PETstock, an online series of videos tips, demonstrations and advice to pet parents in the comfort of their own home. View more information HERE.
General Health Check
If your pet shows any signs of illness or injury during isolation, including lethargy, vomiting, excessive thirst, or split paw, please contact your vet.
As an essential service, PETstock and PETstock vet remain open during stage four lockdown.
Customers can call 13 PETS for more information or alternatively video chat with a veterinarian in Australia 6am to midnight from the comfort of your own home on PETstock’s Vet Chat service HERE.
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