Boarding or Kennelling your pet for the Holidays

When you go on vacation, it is important to know that your pets are being well looked after. Whether you choose to get a pet sitter or to put them into kennels for the duration of your holiday, there are a number of important things that you should look at prior to choosing a spot for your beloved furry family member.

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Choosing the right Kennel or Pet Sitter

Choosing the right kennel or cattery for your pet

Book your kennel or cattery well in advance.

A good kennel will be fully booked well in advance of the holidays.  Make your reservation early to avoid having to put your pet somewhere where you are not entirely comfortable. You may have to book up to five months in advance for top kennels or catteries.

Ask your vet – your vet will have a good idea of which kennels in your area consistently give problems and which ones are good. Often, good kennels may also be members of Pet Boarding Associations – although this may vary from region to region.

Visit the kennel prior to booking your pets in and see if the animals look happy and well cared for.  Aside from quarantine kennels used for pet import and export, there should be no reason why your kennel should not allow you to see the facilities where your pet will be housed.

Choosing the right sitter, cattry kennel for your pet

Look at where and how pets are housed BEFORE booking them in

Find out what your pet will need prior to being booked into a kennel. Most good kennels require up to date vaccinations and worming, including kennel cough (Infectious Tracheobronchitis) in dogs and the Snuffles complex (Herpes, Calici, Rhinotracheitis, Chlamydia) in cats. if the kennel doesn’t need any proof of vaccination from you, it is probably not a good idea to use them, as they may admit unvaccinated animals which can make your pet sick.  If you stay in an area with ticks or if the kennels is in an area with ticks, you may also be required to use a preventative such as Fipronil (Frontline) on your pet prior to being admitted.

Vaccinate your pet before kennelling him

Good kennels require all pets to be fully vaccinated

When choosing a Pet Sitter, people often use students to look after their homes and pets. Some will live on your property and some will pop by daily to feed and check your pets. It is important to make sue that the person who is looking after your pets knows all their medical conditions, how to medicate them, where your vet is if there are any problems and where to get food, medication and supplies for your pets should they run out. Choose someone responsible, who has had experience with animals before, such as a vet student or a student who works at a vet part time. These sort of people would know best how to handle any emergencies that should arise and how to recognize and emergency should your pet have one.  They should also be able to handle your pet easily and be introduced a few times to your pet before you leave!!. Remember – they are strangers coming onto your property which your guard dog may take as an affront or your cat may run away from. It’s usually best to kennel dogs that bite as you don’t want to be responsible for the pet sitter’s medical bills when you get back.

Will your pet be housed individually or with other Animals?

Many people love the idea of a lot of animals all running free together. In practice, I have found that there are a lot of cons involved with this.

1. Diseases are more easily transmitted if all the animals run together – especially in catteries where feline Herpes can easily spread fast from cat to cat.

swollen conjunctiva in cat with herpes infection

Herpes is a disease that re appears under stress, such as in a cattery

2. With dogs – every time a new animal is added to the pack or taken from the pack, shifts in pack dominance occur. What this means is – your pet can get bitten by other dogs and land up in dog fights. Eevn if the kennels assure you that this is rarely a problem, you don’t want your dead dog to be that rare case.

3. Even pets that know each other well can fight when put into a strange environment where there is more stress.

What if my Pet has a Medical Condition?

Some pets need medication daily such as diabetics, or animals with heart problems. You should find out if your kennels or sitter is able and willing to medicate your pet daily. In the case of diabetic animals this means that they know how to store insulin properly, for example and how to give the injections and also what to do in a diabetic emergency. They should be able to dose tablets and not just give them in the food – many animals won’t eat for a day or two in a strange place and this means they will miss their medication unless they are dosed.

Injectable insulin for treating diabetes

If your pet is a diabetic, make sure your kennel is able to do injections!!

If your pet is not that stable on his medication or if he often gets ill with his condition, it is usually best to board him at your vet, who knows him well and has the skills to treat problems, should they arise. Remember, vets also get booked up early, like kennels do, so it is a good idea to book them in well in advance.  It is a good idea to leave a list of what to do if something happens when your pet is with your sitter or kennel, for example: If your pet has a heart problem, for example,  leave a list stating:

Your vet’s and emergency vet’s contact numbers and addresses

Emergency contact numbers for you or a relative or friend

If your pet has to eat a special diet

diets that help the liver

Find out if your kennel is able to feed your pet a special diet.

Which medications your pet is on, how often they must be given and at what time and dose they must be given.

Leave a list of problems that heart pateints are prone to, for example:

If Fluffy is coughing a lot, he needs to go into the vet for an injection.

If Fluffy is breathing heavily take him in asap.

If Fluffy has a fit or fainting spell, take him in to the vet asap.

If Fluffy won’t eat, take him the same day to the vet.

What if my pet gets sick or dies while I am on Holiday?

Accidents and illnesses happen despite the best care and in the best kennels. It may or may not be the fault of the kennels or the sitter. What you need to know is that your sitter or kennel will have your pet see a vet the moment a problem arises. If your pet won’t eat or is vomiting, it is better that he be seen and be found healthy than waiting for a few days to see if he gets better and then taking him to the vet. In diseases like kidney failure, this can be fatal.

Many kennels keep basic medications like eye creams, Pectrolyte for diarrhea and even some antibiotics in stock which they dose animals with if they appear to be ill. If the kennels have a qualified person such as a vet or vet nurse, or technician on their staff this is fine, but if not, please specify that you would prefer your pet be taken to his regular vet with ANY problems.

Some animals are simply found dead in their kennels without showing any illness before. This is the worst situation for both the kennel and the owner. A good kennel will give the owner the option of a veterinary autopsy to determine the problem. In many cases, such as acute heart failure or a twisted bowel in the night, there will be little that they could have done better than you.

If you collect your pet from the kennel and then find that he or she is ill and needs veterinary attention, and your kennel has said nothing to you about this, it is probably best to let them know the problem arose and to use a different kennel in the future. Pets get sick in kennels and catteries – cats often have flare ups of Feline Herpes simply from the stress of a different environment. Pets may also lose weight in kennels or catteries. This is all acceptable. But they must tell you about it as soon as your pet is ill and also when you collect them. This is the mark of a good kennel and one you may happily board your pets at in the future.

What if I have an Exotic Pet?


Finding accommodationfor exotic pets is difficult

Exotic pets can sometimes be cared for at pet shops or by Pet Sitters

Exotic pets such a Bearded Dragons, birds, snakes and fish can sometimes be housed at pet shops for the holidays. Most regular kennels and catteries will not take these pets and in many cases, a pet sitter is the best option. All the rules that I have listed above apply for these pets as well, especially as they are often much more valuable (price wise) than dogs and cats.

Dr. Claire Demmer


BVSc (Hons)

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