Last week, our blog focused on things to consider when vacation and travel includes the family pets. Sometimes though, it is not possible to bring pets along for the trip, leaving owners with the question of who should take care of the pets in the owner’s absence. Given how pets are considered members of the family, this can be a difficult decision. Pet owners do have choices available though, and this blog will explore those choices.
Pet Care Options:
Working through the choices requires thought from a variety of angles. Underlying all of the choices, of course, is the basic need for the pet to receive appropriate food, water, shelter, and be able to maintain normal bathroom habits. Someone needs to be available to give attention to the pet as well as address any concerns that may arise. Owners will therefore either need to board their pet, or find a pet sitter to care for the pet. A variety of boarding and pet sitting options exist, so take some time to consider what is most important to you. For example, is it important to you that your dog be kenneled at a veterinary clinic so that a veterinarian can easily address concerns that may arise? If you are thinking about a pet sitter, do you want someone who comes to the house, or someone who might take your pet into their home while you are away?
Consider Your Pet’s Emotional Needs:
Owners also need to consider their pet’s emotional needs. As your pet’s primary care giver, you know your pet’s emotional needs best. Many pets will be happy and do well in a boarding facility. As long as they have their basic needs met and are well loved and cared for at the facility, they could easily enjoy the time at the kennel. Depending on which facility you select, they may even have socialization opportunities with other pets in the facility. For some pets though, the change in routine or the kennel environment can be scary or overwhelming. These pets may do better emotionally with a pet sitter. Prior to traveling, you could consider a boarding trial for a night at a kennel to see how your pet does. Or, have your pet meet and greet the pet sitter to familiarize your pet with the person before you will actually be away.
Are There Medical Problems to Take Into Account?
For pets with medical conditions, there are some additional things to consider. First, depending on the problem being managed, you may want to talk with one of our doctors about the best place to leave the pet when you travel. Sometimes the decision is complicated. For example, a diabetic cat may be difficult for a pet sitter to care for, yet boarding the cat at a veterinary facility may increase the cat’s stress level (depending on the cat’s personality). Additionally, you should always notify the kennel facility or pet sitter if your pet does have health concerns that need to be managed or monitored. Clear instructions should be provided about any medications that need to be administered. In the event of an emergency, it is helpful for the facility or pet sitter to know what number to call, where to take the pet, and what level of care would be permissible when you are away.
Is Preventive Care Up-To-Date?
Once the decision has been made about where the pet will stay, owners should also confirm their pet is up-to-date on relevant preventive and wellness care items. Lawndale Veterinary Hospital recommends that all dogs and cats receive year-round preventives for things such as heartworms, intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks. These preventive medications are important whether an animal is at home, at a pet sitter’s house, or in a kennel.
As far as vaccines, here are some pointers:
- A pet is typically not considered protected until about 2 weeks after the vaccine is administered. For vaccines that require a series, the animal will be considered protected 2 weeks after the final vaccine in the series.
- Pets should always be current on the rabies vaccine, no matter where they are staying.
- Dogs and cats should be current on core vaccines, and for dogs, owners may need to consider additional protection options.
Remember, boarding facilities house multiple animals in a confined area. This means that infectious diseases can spread more easily and rapidly. Therefore, facilities will typically have minimum requirements for vaccinations. They may also have requirements for fecal testing and flea and tick prevention. Check with the facility ahead of time to understand what might be required.
At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, the following minimum boarding requirements are in place to help protect your pet, as well as the other pets, while in the clinic:
- Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccine
- Distemper/Adenovirus / Parainfluenza / Parvovirus combination vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
- Fecal Test
- Panleukopenia / Rhinotracheitis / Calici / Chlamydia combination vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
Pet owners will also need to consider their pet’s dietary needs. Boarding facilities usually have food available to feed if owners do not bring their pet’s food. At Lawndale Veterinary Hospital, we select a food that can work to minimize the impact of diet change while boarding. Sometimes a change in routine (e.g., boarding, the owner being gone) or a change in diet can cause an animal to develop diarrhea. Keeping pets on their regular food routine, or even considering a diet for stress diarrhea are options to consider while pets are away from their owners. For pets who are already known to have a sensitive stomach, or who have chronic health conditions managed through a special diet, we recommend those pets continue to receive their diet while boarding.
Pet owners who will be traveling have many things to consider for their pets. Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions! We can assist you with understanding what wellness care your pet may need prior to your trip, and we can also discuss scheduling a reservation for boarding at our clinic if you are looking for a boarding facility.
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS