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Holiday pet boarding dos and don'ts

Experts weigh in

Whether you're traveling this holiday season and have to leave your pet behind or just need to board your pet during the hectic party season, there are a dizzying array of holiday pet boarding options to choose from. Traditional kennels and in-home pet boarding have pros and cons, so let's take a closer look at how to keep your pet safe and securely boarded when you can't be there.
Happy dogs in kennel

From facilities like PetSmart's PetsHotel to traditional kennels to websites like DogVacay that match you up with a qualified pet sitter in your area, there's a type of boarding that is perfect for your pet. But handing your pet over to the stranger can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if it's you or your pet's first time. To help make the experience as stress-free as possible for all involved, we caught up with experts to give us some tips.

Pros and cons

Let's first take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of boarding your dog or cat. Terry Markwart, SI, APCT, CKO, PCSA and owner/founder of Lap of Luxury Pet Sitting in Scottsdale, Arizona, explains that both boarding facilities and in-home pet sitters can benefit your pet. "The right boarding facility can provide a fun environment for those outgoing pets who like to be around other pets. Professional pet sitters offer peace of mind for the owner and allow the pets to stay in the comfort of their own home... The pet gets to sleep in its own bed and stay comfortably in its own environment." Pet sitters are also an ideal option for pets who require a little extra TLC and provide that one-on-one attention that many pets crave.

Dr. Simon Starkey, veterinary expert for PetSmart, tells us one drawback of a boarding facility: the pet-to-staff ratio during this busy time might not be up to par. He "recommend[s] asking the facility how many staff they have or stop by prior to boarding and get a sense of how well they are run and how well-staffed they are. Visiting the facility beforehand will also help ensure the transition for your pet is an easy one by establishing comfort and familiarity. Your pet can become acquainted with the new sounds, smells and people at the facility before they arrive for their stay."

Watch out for red flags

All right, so you've made the decision to board your pet at a boarding facility or with a pet sitter, but sometimes there are red flags that you might not even notice at first glance. First, it goes without saying but make sure your pet sitter is qualified. Terry Markwart recommends checking to see if your pet sitter is a member of Pet Sitters International or any state or local trade associations in addition to being insured and bonded. She explains, "Professional pet sitters go the extra mile to ensure that your pets and your property are well taken care of while you are away. They should ask for an initial meeting and never be afraid to ask for references."

In the case of a boarding facility, owners should look for establishments that require pets to be up-to-date on vaccines. Dr. Starkey adds, "This may seem like an added expense and time commitment for owners, but it indicates that the facility puts pet health first and will be willing to turn down business if pets are not adequately vaccinated. This in turn will protect your pet."

Also, take a moment to examine the cleanliness of the facility. Is there a smell as soon as you walk in? When you tour the kennel, is there animal excrement that needs to be picked up? "An established facility will have clear protocols for cleaning their facilities before, during and after your pet’s stay," says Dr. Starkey.

Although we never expect it, it's always better to be safe than sorry, so ask about your facility or pet sitter's emergency plan in case something does happen. First and foremost, make sure they have an emergency plan! "Most established boarding facilities have relationships with veterinarians and some facilities even have veterinarians within the same building, as well as established protocols for dealing with situations ranging from the minor to the more serious," points out Dr. Starkey.

Plan ahead

During the busy holiday season, it's easy to cut corners, but make sure your pet carer is not when it comes to the well-being of your pet. To guarantee your pet is well taken care of amid the hustle and bustle, always do your homework. Start your research early so you're not forced to pick the only option available, says Dr. Starkey. "The end-of-year holidays are some of the busiest periods for boarding facilities, and space in the very best facilities will fill fast. Planning ahead will also give you plenty of time to get vaccines up-to-date should your pet have lapsed. Those that don't book ahead and or fail to get vaccines may be tempted to board their pet at questionable facilities, which could lead to health problems, associated expenses or worse."

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