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Holiday Options for Pets

Whether you’re making a weekend getaway, mapping out a holiday or taking a business trip, providing for your pet is an important part of your travel plans. Good planning is the key to a good travel experience for both of you. I’d like to share some tips that have worked for me and my clients over the years. You’ll find that with some advance preparation you and your pet can look forward to smooth sailing.

The Options

The first step is deciding whether you’re going to take your pet with you or have it cared for while you’re away. Once you make that decision, or have it made for you by the conditions of travel, you have options. Your veterinarian can help you choose. If you are considering leaving your pet home your choice will likely be between Pet Sitting and a Boarding Kennel. Ask your vet to recommend reputable pet sitters and boarding facilities, and ask who s/he and the staff use. Find out which ones best suit your pet’s health, age, temperament and special needs. If you’re thinking of taking your pet with you inquire if your pet is current on all vaccines that may be required by the travel.

And whether your pet is coming along or staying behind, you may have to deal with separation anxiety; just leaving home can give rise to it. Here’s a good technique to help allay those fears. In fact, you don’t have to wait for a specific trip; this is an excellent practice “just in case”. Throughout the year leave suitcases out for your pets to sniff and get used to. This way they won’t associate them with separation, and when a trip does come up it’s one less thing to make them anxious.

Pet Sitting

Because your pet can stay in the familiar comfort of home, pet sitters are especially great when there are special needs. It could be an older pet or an anxious one. Or one with an illness that requires special care and medication. And you may just feel more comfortable with this arrangement. Finding someone you can count on to keep their promise to care for your pet will help prevent disaster. It’s well worth doing research. Word of mouth is an excellent source of bad news as well as good, so ask around. And make sure to get references before you engage a pet sitter. Some are even bonded. It’s an important decision so ask whatever questions you need to help you make it; a reliable pet sitter will not mind. When you find someone you can trust decide how often you want that person to visit your pet. Cost may be a factor but try not to reduce it by cutting back on the time you get. This can be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to what’s important: doing what is best for your pet.

Boarding Kennels

Once you’ve gotten references drop by and ask for a tour of each facility. Inspect the conditions and make sure you feel comfortable with this pet home away from home. Under the best circumstances pets are bound to feel stress in a strange environment. You can reduce it by packing something that has your smell, a favorite toy or other familiar object. Find out what food the kennel gives its boarders. If you think it may upset your pet’s system, providing your own food may decrease the chance of distress. Be just as diligent when you pick your pet up. Be alert for signs of stress or reaction to a change in diet. If your pet has diarrhea contact your vet. If s/he is coughing, it may be kennel cough. Again, contact your vet. Always ask the kennel staff how your pet handled the visit. It’s important information for your vet if a visit is required. And important for you next time you have to arrange for your pet’s care — or give a reference.

Traveling With Your Pet

Even if your pet is coming with you, travel can produce stress. But there are ways to deal with it. Keep in mind that a travel case can seem at best unpleasant and at worst frightening. If you have to put your animal in a case, leave it out for a period of time and put food or treats, even a toy, in it, so your pet can come and go and see that it’s a safe place not a scary one. Some pets love nothing more than taking a ride in a car, especially with the windows open, but others do not and may get queasy or associate it with negative things, such as a trip to the vet. If your pet needs to be acclimated, there are tricks you can use to make the car a positive place. Make mini trial runs; feed the pet in the car without going anywhere; while in the car try different things that your pet enjoys or takes comfort from. You can, of course, try medication can help lessen anxiety and car sickness. Consult your vet about the medications and dosages that would be safe and suit your pet’s health needs and age. Don’t wait till the last minute. Try these medications well before your trip to see how your pet responds. If s/he has a reaction you’ll have access to your vet and your pet will be home, where s/he feels safe. One last reminder. You may be heading for a destination that requires a health certificate for your pet. Check with your vet and, if appropriate, your travel consultant.

Travel can be a rewarding adventure or a dreaded burden. I wish you all “bon voyage” and hope this information helps make travel better for you and your pet.

Remember, your pet and your concerns are dictated by individual and specific needs. Please do not substitute the above recommendations for the advice of trained professionals who can examine and treat your pet after a thorough examination.