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Boarding Your Pets

Get Ready Before You Get to the Kennel


Making an appointment to board your dog or cat at the kennel while you are away is the first step, and necessary, but don't forget these important tips or your pet's health could be at risk.

1. Make A Reservation

Bluebell on the phone / JoshSemans on Flickr
JoshSemans on Flickr

More than once I have called to make a boarding reservation for my senior cat Greta (now 21 years old, photo here) and just squeaked in on available space. Greta doesn't travel well, and gets lonely even with a regular visiting pet caretaker. She loves the company at the veterinary boarding center and all of the attention the staff lavish on her.

Holidays and vacation times often fill up weeks in advance, which can complicate things for a procrastinator like me. Make those reservations early.


2. Check on the Vaccinations

Rabies vaccine and syringe © Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
© Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
While the vaccinations deemed "necessary" vary with each pet, vet, and lifestyle (indoor-only, hunting dog, etc.), most pets will need, at a minimum, to be current on rabies vaccination as required by law.

Because boarding involves many animals from many backgrounds in a small space, pets should also be current on core vaccinations (dog and cat distemper combination vaccinations) and dogs will usually be required to be current on Bordatella vaccination, commonly known as kennel cough.

The key is to make sure that the necessary vaccinations are up to date at least 1-2 weeks before boarding. While it may "meet the requirements," a vaccine given on the way back to the kennel is not protective for your dog for this stay.

3. Don't Miss A Medication

Doctor holding pill box - Getty Images / Janet Kimber
© Getty Images / Janet Kimber
If your pet takes medications, count ahead and make sure there are enough doses to last for your entire absence so the kennel or pet caretaker won't have to scramble and deal with refill problems or a closed veterinary office.

Writing out daily medication instructions in addition to providing a way to keep track of the medication(s) is best, especially when more than one person will be taking care of your pets. I prefer to use the daily medication pill boxes to avoid any confusion over medication administration. A chart is also helpful, especially for non-pill situations such as insulin injections for a diabetic patient.

4. Food and Treats

Thai the Cat / Kevin N. Murphy on Flickr
Kevin N. Murphy on Flickr
Food is usually "included" in boarding costs, but I always bring my pet's own food in with them. Staying on the same diet will help reduce loose stool or diarrhea and the question of a pet not eating because they don't like the new food or because they are ill.

If you bring treats for your pet, include instructions for feeding treats, too. If your pets are housed together, make sure they are fine with eating food and treats together in a small space.

5. Blankets, Beds, and Toys

I forgot to bring in Greta's "puffy princess bed" once, and the staff was very kind to make an extra fluffy bed for her. While she appreciated this, she really loves her princess bed, so I am sure to bring it with her each time, both for comfort and the security of something that she is familiar with.

If your pet has a favorite bed or toy, ask the kennel what is acceptable to leave with your pet. Be warned that pets may behave differently than they do at home, and shred or soil these items. I rarely board my dogs, but if I do, I bring an older blanket for this reason.

6. Phone Numbers and Identification

Cell phone by Cyrillicus on Flickr
by Cyrillicus on Flickr
Make sure your pet's identification - collar tags and microchip registration - are current. Cell phone numbers, rather than a home number, are essential for reaching you in the event of an emergency.

Be sure to include your pet's veterinarian's contact information with the rest of your pet's caretaking information. It is also a good idea to let your vet know who is taking care of your pets, especially if your pets require daily medical care or you will be away for a prolonged time.

7. Smooth Travel: DAP and Feliway

DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone Calming Collar for Dogs - Image courtesy of PriceGrabber
Image courtesy of PriceGrabber
Whether my pets are traveling with me, staying at a kennel, or at staying at home with a caretaker, I always make sure to have DAP - Dog Appeasing Pheromone collars and spray and Feliway (cat version of this pheromone) on hand. This makes travel much smoother and helps reduce any separation anxiety.

For pets that experience anxiety in the car, these products would be worth a try to keep them calm and reduce car sickness.

8. Preparation is Key

Purl loves the Zogoflex Huck ball / Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM
I fall into the "oh I will have plenty of time to do that before the trip" trap. Truth is, I am usually harried and lucky to get just the essentials done before heading out. Taking a few minutes a week or two in advance of your departure to make sure everything is in order will save lots of headaches later and keep your pets healthier, too.
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