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Pet Boarding Tips

Claire Thornock Brazelton - July 16, 2010

Summertime calls for family road trips: visiting extended family and friends, adventures to theme parks, and swimming in the ocean. However, when traveling, many families face the hard decision between bringing their four-legged friend along or leaving him at home with a sitter or boarding facility. What to do?

Many pet owners choose to place their dog or cat in a kennel while the family is away, but it can be hard to know if your pet friend will be properly cared for. What do you look for in a pet boarding facility? How do you find the one that suits your pet the best?

Dr. Wanda V. Pool, owner of Deepwood Veterinary Clinic in Virginia, believes there are "Eight Golden Rules of Pet Boarding" that will help to keep your pet healthy and safe while you are away. Pool created these rules because she knows how hard it can be to feel secure about trusting your pet to someone else.

"Finding the right pet boarding facility can be tough, especially when leaving your pet behind to go travel," Pool says. "But these tips can teach you what to look for in a pet barding facility and how to prepare yourself and your pet for the visit."

  1. Research: Find out about boarding facilities from reliable sources, like veterinarians. To find out complaints have been made about that facility, check with the Better Business Bureau or another authority. Tour the entire facility, and don't be afraid to ask questions about any concerns or problems that you see.


  2. "Sniff" test: Satisfy yourself that the boarding kennel you choose is safe, clean, and comfortable, providing good care from knowledgeable, experienced staff. If you see something that is out of the norm and makes you feel uncomfortable, go somewhere else.


  3. Healthy standards: Confirm that the kennel requires all boarding animals to meet health standards. The kennel should insist all animals, including your pet, are current on vaccinations that protect against illnesses like kennel cough ( Bordetella) and the newly emerging virus canine influenza H3N8.

    Next, make sure the kennel maintains good conditions, as there are two ways that infections can spread in a pet facility. First, aerosol spread is caused when a facility has too many animals packed into a small area, increasing the spread of germs and viruses due to lack of open air. Second, direct spread is caused when areas where animals have vomited or urinated in the facility are not cleaned properly and staff and other animals come in contact with that area. Check for any potential opportunity for infection to spread within the facility.


  4. Pet identification: Your pet should be properly identified during its boarding stay. The kennel should provide a highly visible ID collar as a help to kennel staff. Permanent identification, such as a microchip, is equally important. Be sure your pet's registration and your owner contact information are kept up-to-date in a national pet recovery database. Provide the facility with current pictures of your pet in case your animal gets lost. If you bring in your pet during a busy time, a way to help out staff members and to assure your pet gets fed properly is to allocate the food portions into baggies and identify how many times the pet should get the food.


  5. Just in case: If your pet is on medication, bring it in the original bottles with original labels; this allows the kennel to know exactly what to do and how much to give your pet, should a question arise. Also, a list of medications the animal is on and the name of the veterinarian that prescribed them is beneficial to staff members. Any basic information about your pet is also vital to the facility.


  6. Expect the unexpected: Kennels should have plans in place to handle health emergencies, including disease outbreaks, so be sure to ask about their protocol. Make sure that the place you leave your pet requires you to provide the name and contact information of your veterinarian or a signed release form authorizing medical care, if the kennel has a veterinarian on staff. Be sure to tell the facility that you want to be contacted if your pet gets sick, or give a release that allows the facility to give treatment to your dog or cat if they can't reach you within 24 hours. Besides leaving contact information for your veterinarian, consider leaving contact information for someone you would like to have your pet picked up by in the event of an emergency.


  7. Pet inspection: You and facility workers should inspect the animal for any existing problems before check-in. When you retrieve your pet from the kennel, closely inspect him or her; look for signs of fleas, scrapes or bruises, or illness, such as discharge from the eyes or nose.


  8. Relax: Maintain your composure when dropping off and retrieving pets from kennels so they can model your good behavior. Pets are uncanny at accurately reading you and how you feel, and if you are upset and stressed about something, then they will act that way too.
Follow these tips the next time you decide to leave your pet behind while you are traveling, and you can return to the same healthy, safe, and happy companion.

© LDS Living, July/August 2010. Photo by Hanna Zabielska/sxc.hu.