Posts Tagged ‘pet sitter’

Travel Tips brochure available at our office.

Travel Tips brochure available at our office.

Going somewhere?

Check with us to make sure your pet is up-to-date on recommended vaccinations and parasite control.

Whether you bring Fido and Fluffy along for the ride, drop them off at the kennel, or hire a pet sitter, you’ll need to know if their vaccines are current — and you may need written proof. For pets travelling by airplane, a health certificate may also be required for entry into the destination state or country.

Don’t wait until the last minute to find out your pet isn’t ready for travel or kenneling — call us 1 to 2 weeks in advance of departure.

Another great idea: Get your pet a permanent microchip ID like HomeAgain, in case it escapes the car, the kennel, or the casa.

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In Part 1 of the Holiday Travel Series, we explored the option of hiring a pet-sitter to provide in-home pet care, so that your dog or cat can remain in its preferred environment while you’re away.  Another option is to place your pet at a boarding kennel.  Many kennels offer a cozy home-away-from-home experience for their charges.

 A kennel might be right for your pet if

1)  your pet suffers separation anxiety (SA):  A pet with untreated SA can destroy a room or a whole house when left alone.

2)  your pet needs constant entertainment:  Even if your pet does not have SA, it still may prefer the stimulation of an active environment.

3)  your pet requires nursing care:  A veterinary hospital which offers on-site boarding is your best option.

4)  you are uncomfortable allowing unsupervised access to your home.

How do I pick the right kennel?

Recommendations  Ask your veterinarian, friends, family, and neighbors which kennels they recommend.  Then consider…

Location  Is it important to you that the kennel be nearest your house?  Nearest the airport?  Sometimes the kennel that impresses you most is out in the country.  Since your pet’s first boarding experience will require you to make at least three trips (inspection, drop-off, pick-up), determine whether you are happy to make the drive.  If the location is especially remote, you may not be able to retrieve your pet until the day after your return, which will generate an extra day’s boarding fee.

Services  How often are the pets exercised?  Are dogs allowed outside?  Are pets kept separate from each other or will they have contact with other boarders?  Are pets groomed before going home?  Does a staff member stay overnight?  Is emergency veterinary care available?  Bonus – one local kennel offers a pet pick-up and delivery service while another sports a webcam so that pet owners can check in on their “babies” while out of town.

Policies  Visit the kennel’s website to research their requirements.  Some facilities want to meet your pet and evaluate its temperament first.  All kennels require up-to-date vaccinations.  Find out how much food to bring and whether to pack bedding, toys and food bowls.

Call early  Kennels have a finite number of cages and runs and they cannot just “double up” (i.e. put random pets together in cages.)  For this reason, you should start your search 1-2 months ahead of your trip.  “Reputable boarding facilities usually book for holidays typically 4 weeks in advance,” reports Jessica Molina, Manager at Bayside Kennels (   In fact, Bayside has already filled its available indoor/outdoor runs as of November 1st.  Remember, many people leave town during the holidays and they’re competing against you for kennel reservations.  Don’t wait until the last minute to call.

Tour  Kennels offer tours for prospective clients.  See where your pet will be staying while you’re gone.  You won’t stay in a shady motel if you can help it, right?  Right.  So check out Fido’s “motel” before you hit the road.

How do I make the kennel’s job easier?

Familiarize yourself with the kennel’s policies, rates, and hours of operation (especially drop-off and pick-up hours) in order to head off misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Update your pet’s vaccinations as required by the kennel and furnish the records.

Provide food and medication in the amount and packaging required by the kennel.  Make sure all items are clearly labeled with your name and the pet’s name.  Consider adding your pet’s breed or some other identifier to the items, just in case another Mrs. Tom Jones is also boarding a cat named “Claws von Bulow.”

Also provide collar or harness, leash, and ID tags.

Leave as many contact numbers as you can muster (in case of emergencies) and take the kennel’s info with you (in case of travel delays.)

Notify your veterinarian that your pet will be staying at the kennel and ask whether a pre-boarding examination and fecal test are recommended.

Respect the kennel’s space limitations and rates.  It is unlikely that you’ll get a discount by requesting that your multiple pets share a cage.

Call the kennel if you must cancel or postpone your reservation, so they can give the spot to someone else’s pet.

Cancel the reservation if your pet develops a contagious illness, including skin disease such as mange or ringworm.

I followed all the rules and my pet still got sick after boarding.  What’s the deal???

Cough:  Dogs can develop a cough after boarding, even if vaccinated for Parainfluenza & Adenovirus (part of the Distemper combo vaccine), Bordetella (aka Kennel Cough) and Canine Flu. 

It is important to understand that the vaccine’s purpose is to prepare the body to fight disease; the vaccine itself does not fight the invading organism.  A pet must have a healthy immune system to respond to the vaccine as designed and then fend off viruses and bacteria.  Unfortunately, not all dogs will develop a high level of immunity in response to a vaccine. 

Also, vaccines are not available for every infectious microorganism in existence.  Your pet could be exposed to a strain of disease for which there is no protection.  So why vaccinate?  Vaccinations are proven to reduce the spread of disease and to lessen the severity of symptoms in pets exposed to infectious agents.

Diarrhea:  Animals can develop stress-induced diarrhea due to a change in their environment or diet.  Ask your veterinarian whether probiotics are indicated for your pet.

Have your pet examined by its regular veterinarian if you suspect an illness is in the works.  A respiratory illness is not likely to go away on its own; in fact, it will likely worsen and cause your pet much physical and emotional stress.  (More on vaccines and illness in Part 4.)

That last answer worries me.  Does that mean I should never board my pet?

No.  If your pet is immune-compromised, look into a pet-sitter service.  Otherwise, keep in mind that hundreds of pets are kenneled all over Hampton Roads every day, and few of them end up sick due to kenneling. 

Special thanks to Jessica Molina of Bayside Kennels for kenneling advice and information.  Learn more about Bayside Kennels here.

Next:  Holiday Travel Series Part III – Taking Your Pet With You

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Traveling for the holidays?  Now is the time to plan for your pet’s care while you’re away.  Pet owners who travel have three options:  hire a pet sitter, take the pet to a boarding kennel, or bring the pet along for the trip.

In Part I of this series, we will explore hiring a pet sitter and whether that choice is right for you and your pet.

A pet sitter can be a professional or a friend/neighbor/relative.  Types of pet-sitters include those who visit your house periodically to care for your pet; those who stay in your house; and those who take care of your pet at the sitter’s own home. 

A pet-sitter might be right for you if

1)  You feel your pet is not physically or emotionally suited for kenneling:

Some pets may be too susceptible to disease to risk kenneling.  Others may become severely withdrawn and refuse food during kenneling.  For these reasons, an owner may seek at-home pet care. 

Alternatively, your pet may be happy and healthy, but you as the owner prefer to keep him at home – that’s perfectly acceptable!

2)  You are comfortable allowing a person unsupervised access to your home:

Plenty of people do this on a regular basis with a maid service, home improvement company, or daily dog walking service and it works out well.  Ask prospective pet sitters whether they are licensed, bonded, and insured.  Professionals will have the necessary credentials and protection, but most importantly, they will respect your pets, home, and belongings.

How do I hire a professional pet sitter?

Start your search for a pet sitter well in advance of your trip.  Gather names and recommendations from your veterinarian, friends, and neighbors.  Steve Douglas, owner of Atta-Boy Pet Sitting Service, reports that he is already booked for Thanksgiving this year.  Steve recommends booking a professional sitter 1-2 months in advance of holiday travel.

Visit the pet sitter’s website to find out about rates and services.  Pet sitters may provide extra services such as collecting mail and newspapers, turning lamps on or off, and watering plants.

Schedule a consultation at your home so the pet sitter can meet you and your pets.  Services and rates can be discussed at the consultation.

Ask potential sitters how much time they spend with clients’ pets, on average.  Steve from Atta-Boy arranges a minimum of 30 minutes with pets, although some lucky dogs get a longer playtime when scheduling allows. 

Find out the types of pets a sitter will care for.  Dogs and cats top the list, but what about reptiles, birds, rodents and other exotic pets? 

How do I make the pet sitter’s job easier?

Stick to the key transfer arrangements.

Inform the sitter if you change a previously supplied alarm shut-off code.

Leave as many contact numbers as possible and take your sitter’s contact info with you.

Update the sitter if you will be arriving home earlier or later than agreed upon.  Failure to inform a sitter of early arrival can result in travel charges as well as an embarrassing encounter at home.  Late arrivals – by a day or more – can result in a hungry pet and a mess in the house.

Provide an adequate supply of food and medications to last your absence plus an extra week, in case of unexpected delays.  Bonus – if you arrive home on schedule, you won’t need to rush out for supplies.

Also provide a collar or harness, leash, and ID tags for your dogs; leave a cat carrier where it can be accessed in an emergency.  Instruct the sitter on the location of pet medicine and vet records.

Don’t forget your snake.  Maybe your snake won’t need to be fed again until you return, so you figure “No need to mention it, right?”  Wrong.  It’s a huge deal if the sitter has a phobia and comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare.  Never spring an animal – especially an exotic – on a pet sitter.  And don’t forget the silent ones:  your fish.  They need to be fed, too!

Notify your veterinarian of the duration of your trip along with the pet sitter’s name and contact info.  Find out if your vet requires a pre-signed Permission & Request To Treat form in case of medical problems in your absence.  Check the sitter’s and vet’s policies on how payment for medical care will be handled; in most cases, you are solely responsible for all costs of care.

What if a close friend or relative offers to do the pet-sitting? 

How well does your friend or relative know your pet?  Your dog or cat may be more comfortable with someone familiar.  An animal which aggressively protects its turf in the owner’s absence may not let an unfamiliar person inside.  This revelation can be a serious problem if the owner has left town and there is no one else available to feed the pet. 

If you do elect to allow a friend or relative care for your pet, consider the following questions:

*Is the sitter comfortable with your pet? 

*If you have a dog, is the sitter able to handle the dog on walks around the neighborhood?

*Can the sitter administer any necessary medications?

*Can the sitter transport your pet to a veterinarian for emergency medical care, if needed?

*Is the sitter known to be a mature, responsible person?  Your pet’s welfare and your home’s security are at stake.

(To see more benefits of hiring a professional pet sitter, click here and view the 25 Point Checklist on Atta-Boy’s homepage.)

What if the worst happens?

If your pet runs away, has a serious accident or dies while in the care of your friend or relative (whether due to negligence or unforeseen circumstances), will your relationship survive the incident?  If you are quite certain that the relationship would end or become permanently damaged, consider hiring someone else for the job.

In fact, if your pet is aged or sickly and there is a chance it could pass away while you are gone – assuming you have rejected the idea of boarding your pet at a veterinary hospital – it would be best to be frank with any sitter you hire, professional or otherwise.  Make sure the sitter understands you will not hold him or her responsible for death due to natural causes – and mean it.

Special thanks to Steve Douglas of Atta-Boy Pet Sitting Service for his insight and advice.  Visit to learn more.

Next:  Holiday Travel Series Part II – Boarding Kennels

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