11 min read

Everything You Need To Know About Boarding Your Pet

This handy checklist will ensure everyone has a good time while you’re away 🐶🐱

Going on vacation is supposed to be a relaxing experience, but for pet owners, extended time away from home can sometimes spell anxiety.

When prepping for a trip, it’s helpful to weigh all your pet-care options so you can make the best choice for you and your furry friend — ‘cause worrying about your pup is the last thing you need while you’re at the beach.

While leaving a pet behind can be difficult, taking her on a getaway is not always a practical solution, explains New York City-based veterinarian Dr. Lisa Lippman. “In most cases, hotel policy and the terrifying potential of losing your pet in an unknown area makes this unrealistic,” Lippman tells The Dodo. “And while some vacationers are lucky enough to have family or friends available to host your pet at a moment’s notice, others are left to consider numerous boarding options and kennels.”

So what do pet owners need to know before boarding a pet? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Find a reputable kennel or pet boarding service

The most cost-effective pet-care option is enlisting a friend or neighbor to dog- or cat-sit while you’re away. But pets may not get round-the-clock attention from folks with busy schedules — while not ideal for dogs, this isn’t always the end of the world where cats are concerned. “Majority of cats are most comfortable in their own homes and don’t require the constant attention a dog requires,” Lippman says. “If your trip is short, it might even be fine to have someone come in to see them daily and to make sure their litter gets changed, and food and water replenished.”

Dogs will need a little more TLC while their owners are on vacation, and that may mean trusting your pup to a professional. In order to find the best kennel for your pet, Lippman suggests reaching out to reliable friends and fellow pet owners for advice. “Word-of-mouth will be your biggest help. If you don’t know where to start, ask other pet owners, your veterinarian or the groomer for a recommendation,” Lippman says. “Depending on where you live, there will be a variety of kennels or boarding locations that may cater to your pet’s specific needs.”

Before booking an on-site visit, check online to see the kind of firsthand experiences pet owners have had with the kennel’s service. “In New York City, for example, you might start with Yelp,” Lippman adds, “which offers a number of quality reviews for the numerous pet boarding locations throughout the city.” Just be sure to take online reviews with a grain of salt, because, you know … it is the internet.

Visit the kennel before committing

Once you have found a suitable option for your pet, book a time to go visit ahead of your trip. It can be helpful to speak with the staff before committing, and give yourself peace of mind that your pet will get the best possible care while you’re away.

Check to see what vaccinations the kennel requires, the kind of facility your dog or cat will have access to, what kind of exercise your dog will receive, the number of staff available to care for and play with your pet daily and the company’s protocol for handling medical emergencies. It is also helpful to confirm that the kennel does not have a history of its dogs escaping or getting into fights.

Ask to take a tour, and make sure the boarding facility is clean and well-ventilated. In addition to kennel cough, a common respiratory infection highly contagious in dogs, there are quite a few common disease risks for pets in social settings, so hygiene is key, notes Lippman. “You should absolutely keep an eye out for mentions of canine distemper, canine influenza (commonly referred to as “dog flu”), canine parvovirus (“parvo”), ticks, fleas and scabies,” Lippman notes. “For cats, upper respiratory disease is seen most commonly, but panleukopenia (distemper), and FeLV/FIV are potential transmittable diseases. But again, appropriate staff hygiene and proper cleaning and disinfection can prevent the spread of most of these diseases.”

Prep your pet for the best boarding experience possible

After you’ve landed on just the right place, and booked your pet’s stay, check in with your vet to make sure your cat or dog is up-to-date with their vaccinations and flea and tick medications. Your vet may even have some helpful suggestions for ways to reduce your pet’s anxiety while you’re away.

For longer trips, Lippman suggests, owners might consider leaving a piece of home with their pets, like a shirt, a special toy or a blanket, though, chances are, you’ll miss your pup before they miss you.

Lippman has also put together a handy checklist of what you should provide for the boarding facility when you drop off your pet:

❏      Bring your own food and medications
❏      Make sure your pet is current on all of his flea and tick preventatives. Ideally, your pet has had a recent and thorough physical examination, possibly even with bloodwork
❏      Don’t skimp on the details or instructions. This is a member of your family, and just as you would with your child, make sure the kennel is fully aware of specific personality traits and potential areas for trouble
❏      Leave multiple methods for contact in case of an emergency and your wishes in case of emergencies
❏      Finally, make sure your pet is up-to-date on the required vaccines: This usually includes DHPP, rabies and bordetella — if you’re unsure about any of these, check with your veterinarian and the kennel at which you plan to board your pet, since most places require proof of this before accepting your reservation

Come home refreshed and pick up your happy pet!

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Picking up your pet from the kennel can be an emotional reunion, but before heading home, ask the staff how things went. “When you do pick up your pet, you’ll certainly want to ask about your pet’s stay to ensure that they adapted well and no issues arose,” Lippman says. “Professional kennels are usually required to record this information, and it can help them be even better hosts should you choose the location again.”

Once you finally arrive at home, spend some time relaxing with your pet before getting back into your routine. Lippman suggests resisting the urge to feed them immediately, as it could lead to some messy consequences. “You may want to hold off on feeding your pet for four hours after arriving home since they may be overexcited to see you. When this happens, they tend to gulp food and water, which could trigger vomiting and/or diarrhea,” Lippman adds. “This is fun for no one.”

For more helpful pet advice, check out @DrLisaLippman on Facebook and Twitter.