Caring For Your Pets While You’re Away

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

August is a common time for families to attempt a final vacation prior the coming school season. People call our clinic asking about boarding references again and again. It is important to educate pet owners to their options in caring for animals while they are gone.

One first option that I like to suggest is to have a reliable pet -sitter employed to watch your pets and your home. Depending on the scenario, some pets require regular and frequent visits for potty breaks and feeding, but may not require overnight surveillance. On the other hand, there are many pets that require more consistent supervision and care, or pet owners who prefer to know their beloved critters are being watched around the clock. Those house sitting pet-sitters are available as well. I like this approach as the pets stay put in their familiar spaces. They are managed in a familiar way including feeding schedules, play and activities, and simply having a warm body to be close to. In my mind, this is a best, first choice. A reasonable alternative here would be to allow your pet to stay at the sitter’s home. Both scenarios work fine, assuming pets and sitters are afforded pre-employment visits so each can get used to the other.
Nonetheless, many people prefer to utilize the many great kennel programs throughout our community. Whichever facility you select, there are proper steps to take to ensure you make the best selection for you and your pet(s). Most important is to be sure you visit your veterinarian to update all preventative actions like immunizations, fecal exams, and both heartworm and flea/tick management. In fact, most legitimate facilities will demand that your pet’s healthcare is up to date.

I encourage all pet owners to make time to tour a kennel not previously used. Bring questions along. For example, you may want to know feeding schedules and methods? Ask whether you can bring your pet’s own food, treats, toys and/or bedding? Does the facility have 24 hour staff supervision? What is their protocol in the event of an animal health emergency? What will follow should a tornado or fire impact the kennel? Do not be shy with your questions. After all, this is your family pet, and you have to know you are making the best choice you can make.

Today, many kennel and boarding facilities provide all sorts of extra services. These may include special holding units, some with household furniture, TV’s or stereos. There are often options for your pets to participate in daily play sessions or daycare activities, allowing for socialization and enrichment through animal to animal interaction. You can request training activities if your pet has a particular behavior that requires some modification, or if you simply want to incorporate new training skills for your pet. Obviously, best success comes with responsible follow up by the pet owner, with their pet’s trainer. Finally, most boarding kennels will also provide grooming and bathing services in preparation with your pet’s return home.

Be alert to the fact that post-grooming ear infections are not terribly uncommon. Groomers may attempt to pluck the hair from particular dog breeds and send them on their way home. I encourage pet owners to follow any grooming episode with a few days of ear flushing just to be sure infections will not follow. And, I also encourage pet owners to allow their veterinarians to express anal glands rather than having their groomers accomplish that. Our technique is different and more completely empties the gland, which prevents other problems like glandular abscesses. Finally, it is also common for pets to return home presenting with diarrhea, cough, or even abrasions on their pads. The best suggestion is to be sure and check over your pet as you enter the facility, and upon leaving. Not unlike one does with a rental car. Certainly, there are things that happen in the best of facilities, and pet owners need to be sensible about these assessments post-boarding.

Do your homework and then you can travel with the comfort of knowing your family pets are being cared for properly and safely. Happy Travels!!!

Fondly, Dr. Doug

Dr. Doug Pernikoff and Staff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
& Veterinary Pet Rescue(VPR)