When considering your summertime plans, including your pet may not be the most appropriate choice for your particular circumstance. After all, there are many occasions when a pet’s presence may be impractical, unsafe or merely unwelcome. Although I strive to include my dog (Cardiff) in my daily activities and travel, I recognize that sometimes this is not possible and he may need outside care and supervision.
To board or not to board? This is a question I receive frequently which is why I’ve made it the next topic in Flexcin’s ongoing Summertime Safety Series. Canine or feline boarding can be in the traditional setting of a kennel, at a pet sitter’s house or even within the familiar environment of your own home.
What Boarding Environment Is Best for Your Pet?
Regardless of where your pet ultimately stays, it’s important to pursue the safest and healthiest option. Not all boarding environments are created equal and all harbor at least some potential to cause injury or illness to your pet (even your own home).
Traditional boarding facilities (AKA kennels) bring many animals together in a confined space which puts stress on a pet from the perspective of direct or indirect contact with other animals, pattern alterations (eating, sleeping/resting, bowel movement, urination, etc.), exposure to infectious organisms, and risks for trauma or toxicity.
Arranging for pet care services from a trusted family member or friend in your home is the best option; pets are most comfortable and least stressed when their environment does not change, even if their familiar humans are absent. If your pet is debilitated, juvenile (puppy or kitten), geriatric, sick, behaviorally challenged (aggressive, overly timid, etc) then choose the non-kennel option.
Even the seemingly cleanest kennels are hot zones for infectious organisms, so consider the serious health implications associated with boarding your pet. Your pet could enter the kennel completely healthy and behaving normally and come out sick and requiring veterinary attention.
Bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi have the potential to transmit among boarded pets and create mild to life threatening illness. Some of the most common infectious agents attack the respiratory and digestive tracts and skin including:
- Bacterial- Bordatella, Chlamydia, Mycoplasma
- Viral- Calicivirus, Distemper, Influenza/Parainfluenza, Herpes
- Bacterial- Camphylobacter, Salmonella,
- Parasitic- Giardia, Hookworm, Roundworm, Whipworm
- Viral- Corona, Parvo
- Fungal- Dermatophyte (Ringworm)
- Parasitic- Sarcoptic Mange
Kennel associated stress negatively impacts the immune system leaving a pet’s body more susceptible to infection. Decreased sleeping, increased activity, diminished appetite, more frequent vocalizing and exposure to cleaning products and other toxins all adversely affect your dog or cat’s immune system.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Pet in a Boarding Environment?
If your plan is to proceed with putting your pet into a kennel, then schedule a wellness examination with your veterinarian within one month of the planned boarding period. Your veterinarian will be able to determine if your pet is healthy enough to board, diagnose and treat any existing diseases and ensure appropriate vaccinations have been administered.
Most states require dogs to be vaccinated for Rabies (virus). In CA, the only legally required vaccination for dogs is Rabies, while cats have no legal vaccination requirements. Work with your veterinarian to ensure your pet’s vaccination status complies with state vaccination guidelines. Two to three weeks are required to mount a sufficient immune response to a vaccine, therefore planning is essential.
Always keep your pet’s food and feeding schedule consistent in the kennel, as dietary changes can cause vomiting, diarrhea or other illness. Additionally, do not modify your pet’s meals within seven days of boarding, as an optimally functioning digestive tract promotes better immune health.
If possible, provide continuity for a good night’s sleep (or day’s nap) with your pet’s own bed. Consider a natural calming agent (Rescue Remedy Pet, Spirit Essences, etc.), veterinary prescription sedatives (Acepromazine, etc), or anti-anxiety medications (Alprazolam,etc) to reduce the stress responses associated with boarding.
Properly identify your pet with a collar, tags and a microchip before your pet’s care is assumed by another individual. In a stressful environment, the potential for your pet’s escape increases. A clearly identified pet will be more likely to be reunited with you if found. As collars and tags can be taken off or removed, a microchip creates a permanent means of identification, provided the chip is read by a scanner (done at a veterinary hospital or shelter) and your information is up to date with the microchip’s manufacturer.
Regardless of your pet’s plans for summer, always prioritize health and safety to ensure that illness and injury are minimized.
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Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.