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Boarding and Petsitting Tips

Author: Dr. Christine Calvert, DVM

Traveling is stressful, no matter how exciting the destination. Add to the basic trip planning, trying to find someone to take care of your furry family members only adds to that stress. One way to minimize this stress is to have a plan. Weeks before you have the need for a boarding facility or petsitter you should begin trying to make arrangements. Boarding your animal or petsitting can provide your pet with different benefits while you’re away from home. So, figuring out which one is best for you and your pet is key.

When determining whether to board or have a petsitter there are several things to consider.

Your pet’s health needs:

If you have a pet that requires special care, such as an animal that takes many medications, has a history of seizures, or may be an exotic pet that requires very unique care, a boarding facility or veterinary boarding facility may be the best for you. This can give your pet more supervision and people experienced with medication administration and special needs. In addition, if you pet has a weakened immune system, staying in their own home may be the best option for them, since boarding facilities will expose them to bacteria and viruses they’re not accustomed to. 

Your pet’s routine:

If your pet is a creature of habit, and has never been to a boarding facility, putting them in one for an extended period might be too much for them all at once. If you can do practice runs ahead of time, with a boarding facility or petsitter, this is a good idea. If not, a petsitter, who comes into your home and maintains your pet’s routine may be the best route. 

Your pet’s temperament:

If you have pets with behavioral issues, either towards humans or other animals  you need to factor that in when you’re planning how to best take care of your animal.

What do you think is best?:

You know your pet best. If you think a boarding facility would stress them out, because they sleep on you couch every day and aren’t used to interacting with other animals, they may do better in the home with a petsitter than at a boarding facility. On the contrary, if you have a very active animal who needs a lot of stimulation and has a tendency to get destructive when bored, bringing them to a boarding facility (preferably one that offers play time and enrichment) may be a better option. 


Once you’ve decided if you’re going to take your pet to a boarding facility, then you should prepare for your pet’s boarding, preferably well in advanced. 


When taking your pet to a boarding facility:

Shop around:

Go to different facilities and see which one works the best for your pet. Get tours of the facilities and ask questions about all the services they offer. 


Boarding facilities require vaccines, so this is something to keep in mind when getting ready to board your pet. Pets are required to have non-mandatory vaccines in boarding facilities to prevent the spread of disease, so make sure you have allotted enough time to get your pet up to date on the required vaccines.

Do a trial run:

To reduce the stress of the animal, get them used to the facility. If they offer doggie day care, have your dog go for a few days to get used to the new environment. Maybe do a practice overnight stay, just to see how your pet does with it.

Have all your paperwork:

When bringing your pet in, make sure they have copies of all the required paperwork before you leave. This includes your vaccine records, any allergies your pet may have, or any health concerns your pet has. Anything you think is important is. Generally, boarding facilities will have paperwork for you to fill out before you leave with emergency information.

Have a back-up plan:

Accidents happen. So, if for some reason you pet can’t stay at a boarding facility due to injury or illness, make sure to have someone who can care for them in the event that you are unable to make it back from your trip.


When hiring a petsitter:

Interview your petsitter:

There are many places to find a petsitter, and some have more experience than others. You should interview them ahead of time to make sure your pet’s routines will be met, but also that your pet actually likes the petsitter. It will be very stressful on the animal if they constantly feel stressed every time their temporary caregiver comes to the house. In addition, you want to make sure the petsitter is experienced to handle the needs of your pet. If your pet is on medications or has special needs, make sure your petsitter is experienced in those particular areas. 

Discuss expectations:

Petsitters give you versatility that boarding facilities don’t, but everyone’s expectations are different. Do you want your petsitter to take notes about your animal’s habits while you’re gone? Do you want the petsitter to stay overnight with your pet? Does your not eat when watched? These are all things to be discussed ahead of time with your potential petsitter. 

Have an emergency plan:

Just like when you leave your babysitter with a list of emergency phone numbers, you should do the same with your pet. Give your petsitter a list of emergency contacts, including your current veterinarian and an alternative contact in case you are unavailable and copies of their vaccination history. 

Do a trial run:

Again, see how your animals do with the petsitter for a short overnight trip before your actual extended vacation. 

Have a back-up plan:

If your petsitter gets sick or injured do they or you have a back-up plan? Find this out in the interview or make arrangements, just in case. 

If you’re looking for someone to take care of your fur baby, the biggest thing is to plan ahead. Life happens and things come up, but whenever possible have a plan for your pet in case of a sudden absence. 


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