By Kim Boatman
November 21, 2012; 11:01 AM ET
When Lisa Cook, a lecturer at the University of Central Florida, heads home to New Jersey for the holidays, she leaves behind a beloved family member: Stella, Cook's Australian cattle dog, boards at an Orlando veterinary hospital.
"They insist that Stella be vaccinated for bordatella [an infectious bacterial illness] and rabies," says Cook. "I also take her food along so she doesn't get an upset stomach due to new food."
If you too will be boarding your dog during the holidays, now is the time to plan for your pet's healthy, happy stay. Create a dog-boarding checklist, to avoid last-minute hassles and worries about your pet's health.
The Before-boarding Checklist
Take these precautions before you board your pup:
- Update vaccinations "Make sure all vaccinations are current at least a week to 10 days before boarding your dog," says Sherry Boyer, owner of the Dog House Inn in Gilroy, Calif. Dogs occasionally show symptoms of canine cough or bordatella from the vaccine, and a boarding facility won't be able to tell the difference between shot-related symptoms and the real illness, explains Boyer.
- Check requirements Call the boarding facility to inquire what its vaccination requirements are. Bring proof of the vaccinations with you when you arrive at the facility. Some places also require a clean fecal report as proof that your dog doesn't have worms.
- Visit your veterinarian Even if a facility doesn't require a veterinarian's clearance, it's a good idea to schedule a checkup for your dog within 30 days of its stay, especially if your dog has chronic ailments or is elderly, says CeCe Campbell, camp ranger at Camp Bow Wow Northglenn in Northglenn, Colo.
- Double-check medication supplies Ensure medication supplies are adequate for the stay and bring the prescription in its original container. "It's extremely important that if for any reason your dog has a reaction, or another dog ingests the medication, the staff knows exactly what the prescription is as well as the dosage amount," says Campbell.
- Keep up with flea prevention Almost every facility will require you to treat your dog with a monthly flea preventive. Schedule a treatment just before your dog checks in to the kennel, recommends Greg Martinez, DVM.
Questions to Ask
Steer clear of boarding facilities that don't offer direct, fully explained answers to all your questions. Here's what to know:
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- Can your dog eat its usual food? Dogs may have touchy digestive systems, says Dr. Martinez. Your dog will likely fare better if it can follow its usual diet, so when possible, carefully label its food before boarding.
- What treats are given? A facility might serve your dog its usual food but offer unfamiliar treats. Often, treats contain more gluten and byproducts than commercial foods, and some dogs have trouble digesting the goodies, notes Dr. Martinez.
- How will the facility handle health issues? Ask if the kennel has a relationship with a veterinarian or if veterinary technicians are on staff.
Share the Right Information
Your dog is more likely to enjoy a safe, healthy stay if you also keep the boarding facility well informed. Let the kennel know the following:
- Special needs If your dog is prone to anxiety, aggression or other issues, let the kennel know well in advance. Booking early can ensure that your dog receives the right boarding space, says Campbell.
- Your contact info Share your emergency contact number, along with a local number for someone not traveling with you. Provide contact information for your pet's veterinarian.
- Any allergies Provide a list of your dog's potential allergens along with its other known health information.
- Your dog If your dog hasn't boarded in a while, Boyer and Campbell recommend a half day or so of doggie day care in the facility. Reintroducing your pup to the facility will ease stresses during the actual boarding stay.
As you're shopping, packing and otherwise planning for your own holiday trip, following this checklist may seem like a daunting task. But keep in mind why you're taking these steps: "It's about the safety and health of your dog," says Boyer.
Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com. Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog Daily.