A stressful part of travel is leaving pets in the care of others. Careful planning, however, can help ease anxiety for both pets and their owners. The first step is to talk with your veterinary professional to get recommendations on pet sitters and boarding facilities.
What to look for in kennels:
- Cleanliness, including regular changes in bedding
- Centrally monitored fire alarms
- Access to your veterinarian if medical care is needed
- Regular walks on a leash
- 24-hour supervision
- Medications given regularly
- Fenced area in the event an evacuation of the building is required
- Staff that asks for contact information and verification of vaccinations
What to look for in pet sitters:
- Good references, personal recommendations
- Sitter who can recognize signs of illness
- Sitter who can transport your pet to your veterinarian if necessary
- Sitter who is comfortable handling and walking your pet
- Sitter who can monitor food and water intake
- Sitter who is insured/bonded
"When selecting a kennel/boarding facility, consider the facility’s cleanliness and housekeeping, [which are] essential to the prevention of contagious diseases such as kennel cough or other illness," said David Crawford Carroll, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Eastlake Animal Clinic in Watsonville, California.
Cleanliness should be obvious. “Smell tells a lot,” Carroll explained. “If it smells like urine or feces, leave. A facility should be open 24 hours, and they should allow you to take a tour.”
Carroll also advises pet owners to think twice about requesting dogs to be housed in the same cage even if they are normally at home together. “I think it’s a real negative,” he said. “There’s no way to keep track of whether each animal is eating and going to the bathroom regularly, getting adequate drinking water, or otherwise thriving.”
If your area does not have a kennel or veterinary boarding facility, look into hiring a pet sitter who will come to your home.
Nancy Peterson, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Bryan Animal Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, said that pet sitters – in some cases – are the best solution to pet care.
“For some animals that are easily stressed, home care can be the better choice,” Peterson said. However, she continued, “Be certain to get references and personal recommendations documenting the sitter’s experience.”
Professional experience is important when hiring a sitter, said Carroll. “The neighbor’s child or someone down the block is generally not the best choice. Get someone who is paid on a regular basis, knows animals and what to look for, and asks you who your regular veterinarian is in case there’s any problem.”
Peterson also suggests having the sitter and pet meet before the trip, but warns that if a pet is typically very nervous, he/she may not eat while an owner is away.
In addition to providing a familiar environment, another reason to consider in-home care is the prevalence of canine influenza, which is spread when pets are in close proximity.
A highly contagious respiratory infection caused by a virus, canine influenza spreads quickly from dog to dog.
Ask your veterinary professional for more information about this disease and how you can protect your pets from it. You can also ask your vet for kennel/boarding recommendations or to refer you to a reliable pet sitter.
In general, be sure your pets are properly vaccinated. Ask kennels to provide proof that all guests have the following vaccinations: Parvo, distemper, rabies, canine infectious hepatitis (adenovirus), and Bordetella. Lyme disease and Leptospirosis are advised in areas where the diseases are common.
For sick pets, boarding with veterinarians or at facilities with around-the-clock care may be the wisest choice.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 3, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.