The holidays are almost here! For many of us, that means enjoying some relaxing time at home with family and friends, but for others, it means holiday travel! For pet owners in this situation, there are decisions to make. Will Scruffy stay home, under the supervision of a trusted friend or pet sitter? Will Bobo go to a boarding facility? Maybe Tuffy will travel with you? If so, will you be driving, or flying? There are a lot of options, and many things to consider depending on which you choose.
For many pets, staying in the home is a good option if there are issues with unfamiliar environments, or if health issues prevent receiving the vaccines that many boarding facilities require. Leaving your pet home alone for an extended amount of time is not recommended, for their health and well-being, but also to minimize the chances of returning to a home that was subject to the whims of a bored, scared, or lonely furry friend! A pet sitter may stop in for feedings, walks, and socializing while you are gone, but overnight stays may be a better option if your pet has a medical condition that requires supervision, or needs regular medications. It is possible to find pet sitters that have veterinary experience, which is useful when it comes to administering medications and knowing what to look for in terms of potential health emergencies. To make the process as easy as possible, write a detailed list of care instructions, including diet fed, feeding times, medication dosages and times, home alarm codes, and anything else noteworthy, including contact information for you and your veterinarian. You may also wish to alert your vet’s office that your pet will be cared for by someone else in your absence.
Boarding facilities can be a good option if your pet cannot stay in the home while you are out of town. Whether for cats or dogs, most reputable facilities will require a record of current vaccines. For dogs, in addition to Rabies, Parvo, and Distemper, most will require a current Bordetella vaccine, which protects against kennel cough. Kennel cough is very easily spread in areas where many dogs frequent, which makes this vaccine necessary for boarding facilities to prevent major outbreaks of disease. It is also important that your dog be current on the canine Influenza vaccine prior to boarding. You may read more about the canine Influenza virus here.
It is important have your veterinarian administer these vaccines well enough in advance of boarding, to ensure that your dog is fully protected. The Bordetella vaccine consists of an initial vaccine and two boosters, given 3-4 weeks apart, with full protection occurring around 2 weeks after the final vaccine is given. Some boarding facilities require that this vaccine be updated once every six months, rather than on an annual basis. The canine Influenza vaccine consists of an initial vaccine, and a booster 3-4 weeks later. Contact your preferred boarding facility for their specific vaccine requirements.
Having current vaccines for your pet is equally important for driving or flying, especially if you plan to take your pet out of the country. A health certificate and examination by a veterinarian, usually within ten days of your planned travel date, is required for air travel outside of the United States, and often for air travel within the United States. Before you book any travel plans, check out https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/ for specific requirements of different states and countries. You should also contact your airline to see what they require before you schedule any pre-travel examinations with your veterinarian.
Make a checklist before leaving – food and dishes, water, medications, toys, leashes, etc. so that you leave prepared with all of the necessities! Bring a copy of your pet’s current vaccine information, a list of any current medications that your pet is taking, as well as food or medication allergies, and contact information for your regular veterinarian. If your pet needs medical attention on the way to your destination, or in an unfamiliar city, planning ahead can help to decrease some of your stress and get your pet the care it needs as quickly as possible in an emergency situation away from home.
Depending on your travel plans and your pet’s particular situation, you may have other concerns not listed here. No matter your holiday itinerary, doing research and planning ahead can save a lot of time and stress, and make your travels, with or without your pet, as easy as (pumpkin) pie! Happy Holidays!