Boarding Facilities and Pet Day Care

Finding a good boarding facility (or day care) for your pet…

doggie day careMost people are familiar with boarding facilities because almost everyone (or their parents) has used one at some point in time.   They come in handy when you need to leave town on an emergency, for vacation, holidays, or just a weekend get-away!   However, you want to make sure that the boarding facility you select is a good choice for your pet and that boarding is the right fit for your pet.  

Is boarding the right thing to do with your pet?

Most pets handle boarding facilities very well but others can’t handle the stress of being boarded.   This will depend on your pet and also the boarding facility.  High anxiety dogs typically are more likely to develop problems like gastroenteritis (vomiting/diarrhea) at boarding facilities because of the increase in their stress level.   However, some will develop problems at more typical boarding facilities but may do great at ‘luxury’ boarding facilities which are becoming more and more common now-a-days.   These luxury boarding facilities have much larger cages with nice comfortable beds.   Many of them also have nice large play areas for the dogs to play together and exert some of their energy every day rather than just being caged most of the time.   Some even have pools, nature hikes, TV’s, and webcams (so you can see your pet while on vacation) available at extra prices.

Some dogs don’t have a good temperament for boarding or day care.   If you’re dog isn’t outgoing and friendly with other pets then they are less likely to do well in these situations.

You may want to board your dog for a few days a month or two in advance to see how he/she tolerates it.   This way, if they don’t handle the boarding well you will have plenty of time to find another option like a pet sitter.

Things to consider when picking a boarding facility:

  • Always take a full tour of the facility before boarding.  If they are unwilling to show off their place (all of it, including the back), then you should ask yourself why?!?!   You should make sure the place is looks and smells clean.   If it doesn’t smell clean then they might not be doing a very good job of keeping it clean.  Obviously, take into consideration that pets have accidents all the time while boarding so it can’t always be perfectly clean either!
  • What vaccines are required and how often?   For dogs most facilities will require DHPP, Rabies, and kennel cough (bordatella) vaccines be up to date.   A special note regarding “kennel cough” vaccines – most are good for one year now but some facilities will still require it every 6 months.   If this is the case, you can either over vaccinate your pet and spend more money on additional vaccines or find another boarding facility.  You should also understand that this vaccine does not prevent ‘kennel cough’ as there are many causes of ‘kennel cough’ that are not covered by the vaccine.  It does decrease the risk of the two most common causes though (bordatella and parainfluenza).   This vaccine also takes 3-10 days to take effect depending on previous vaccine status and which vaccine is used (nasal vs injectable).
    • For cats most facilities only require RCP and rabies vaccines be up to date.  Rarely, some will require feline leukemia vaccines too.
  • Hours of operation:  How early/late can you drop off or pick up your pet?  This may affect your travel significantly.  Similarly, do they have staff present over night to ensure no pets are having problems.
  • Medications:   If your pet requires medications then you need to make sure you discuss this with them.  Some facilities can give any medications and some will only give oral (by mouth) medications but not others (injectable, etc).   Similarly, you need to ensure they know about any medical problems that your pet has.   Some facilities will not board animals with certain medical conditions (diabetes, addisons, infections, etc).
  • What happens if my dog gets sick or gets hurt?  It’s common that pets will get sick while boarding (anything from a cough to gastroenteritis) or get hurt (sprain a leg, bite wound, cut foot, etc).   You need to check to see what your boarding facility does in these situations.   Do the take care of them ‘in-house’ themselves, take them to your vet, or take them to a vet that they ‘contract-out’ (saves them money but he/she may not have your pets best interest in mind since they work for the boarding facility).   You should be sure to also give them some form of authorization to make medical decisions for your pet in case of some type of illness, injury, or emergency.   This will allow the veterinarian to treat your pet if you are not reachable.

If a boarding facility doesn’t feel like the right choice for your pet(s) then consider a pet sitter!