Pet Boarding In a Nutshell8 min read

 In Cats, Dogs, General



Pets are important family members but many times we can’t take them along with us wherever we decide to go.  Situations come up that require dogs and or cats in a household to be boarded. If dogs and cats had their choice, they would love to stay in the above pictured Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island near San Diego, CA!  I would love to be boarded in the Hotel del Coronado!  Many reasons come to mind why boarding is so handy:

  • vacations
  • holiday travel
  • family emergencies
  • traveling for a job
  • big home parties
  • home pest control treatments or termite tenting
  • major home repairs or a new roof being installed
  • new set of windows installed… the list is endless!




When it comes to boarding a dog or cat there are many choices available to pet owners:

  • neighbors– From my experience, this can be dicey at best.  Most people have a neighbor go over and feed and water the animals, take out the pets for exercise and change the litter boxes as needed for the cats.  Problems arise when a neighbor does not recognize illness or, even worse, a cat that is straining to urinate.  Even if nothing is wrong, neighbors may take a pet to their veterinarian because they think something is wrong.  In many situations, the pet owner did not leave a check for services rendered.  You can see where this is headed.  If you are using a neighbor, leave cash for an unexpected veterinary visit while you are gone.
  • animal hospital–  This is always a great pet boarding idea because there are trained veterinarians around that know when something is wrong and can treat it immediately.  If you own any animal that needs daily medical treatment, always use this option.  Examples are animals that are being treated for diabetes mellitus, hypothyroid, chronic skin disorders and the like.  Your pet will get treated exactly as written on the prescription label and changes noted in the pet’s medical record.
  • commercial boarding facility– These are also a good choice for pet boarding and are fully capable of delegating administration of prescription diets and basic medications to dogs and cats.  When I say basic, I mean routine administration of antibiotics and the like to pets being treated for a concurrent medical condition.  Commercial facilities are also fully capable of administering medical bathing routines and other ancillary treatments.
  • pet sitters– These come in several versions. There are people that run small businesses that will stop in and check on the animals in the home.  Animals will be fed and made sure that they are eating and drinking.  Many of these people worked as technicians and can recognize when something doesn’t look right.  Another version are pet sitters that will actually live in your home and take care of the animals.  Both are adequate and the choice is yours.  Always check references.




If you choose an animal hospital or a pet boarding facility the most important thing to do is to stop by and take a look at the facility.  A crucial consideration is the cleanliness of the boarding area.  Ask how often the floors are bleached to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.  How many times are the animals taken out for exercise?  Are there individual exercise runs or are dogs taken out on leashes?  Either is adequate.  Do they administer pet medications as prescribed by your veterinarian?  How many times are they cleaned or exercised during the weekend?  Do they allow after hours pickups?

Cats do not like barking dogs.  They get nervous and when cats get nervous they hide in the back of the cage and stop eating and drinking. This is not good.  Cats that do not eat after 3 days can easily develop fatty liver disease.  Prognosis on all those cases is guarded, at best.  The best pet boarding arrangement is where cats are boarded separately from dogs.  The best cat facilities have “cat condos”.  These are stack-able units with a glass front and can be arranged to contain one cat.  If desired, a side hole can be taken out above and to the side to give the animal more room to roam.  They are quiet and also have perches for cats to hang out on.  Cats love looking down from above!

An important boarding consideration is what to do with puppies in such an environment.  Little dogs are easily scared by the sound of a large dog barking or growling.  Some facilities will offer specialized care where small puppies are taken to a special room for socializing with other young animals under adult supervision. This activity is healthy for the young animal.  THE BEST METHOD is to acclimate a newly purchased puppy or kitten at the earliest convenience.  Even if you are not going anywhere board your young pet overnight to get it used to being handled by strangers plus getting used to the sounds of a boarding kennel.  Try to pick a quieter non-holiday period.  By the time the puppy has been boarded and cared for at the pet boarding facility it will be second nature to be boarded in the future.  The puppy may actually wag its tail when it sees the care person.  In my long journey to become a veterinarian, I know that!  I once was a kennel boy myself.  All of this conditioning will prevent separation anxiety so that the animal can be assured it will be safe and protected while its family is away.




  • special food–  Most animals are fed a high quality food meant for the animal’s age of development.  If you are boarding a puppy or an adult with irritable bowel syndrome, brought on by boarding anxiety, bring along a special diet such as hamburger and rice or Hills® Prescription i/d.
  • vaccination recordVaccinations are the best way to prevent your pet from getting and or transmitting an infectious disease to another animal that is boarding along with yours.  Like people, animals crowded together in a facility spread disease quite rapidly. All boarding facilities require dogs to be boostered against:  distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, rabies PLUS kennel cough vaccine (Bordetella bronchiseptica).  Cats require feline distemper, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, rabies plus for their own benefit, Feline Leukemia.
  • emergency numbersLet the facility know who is your emergency veterinarian in case of emergencies.  This is crucial when your pet is NOT boarded at a veterinary facility.
  • your phone number(s)– Make sure you fill out any release forms required by the pet boarding facility.  Make sure you provide a cell number that follows you wherever you go on your travels.  I have seen disasters unfold when a hospital tried repeatedly to call an owner regarding a severe illness that developed but the owner could not be reached.  On a positive note all pet boarding facilities are always happy if you want to check up on your pet while away.  Many times the owner hears their pet barking and that makes them happy just hearing that!
  • medications– Make sure you bring along doses of heartworm preventative and or flea medications that need to be administered while away.  Bring along medications prescribed by your veterinarian that have been dispensed to treat a recent illness.  Once in a while owners recognize that their pet has to be boarded but gets extremely nervous during the visit.  Veterinarians will often prescribe a low dose of a phenothiazine tranquilizer such as acepromazine that will at least cut some of the anxiety without making the animal sleepy.




Many people want to have multiple things done for their pet while it is being boarded.  Examples of this are:  neutering, dentals, vaccination boosters, tumor or cyst excisions plus bathing and grooming.  All medical facilities are happy to do this for you while you are away.  When making the boarding arrangements make sure you mention to the receptionist what you want done while away.  This is important so the staff can schedule your request(s) during day to day business hours.

Now that you are familiar about pet boarding, rest assured that your pet will be taken care of while you are away.  When I was a kennel boy, I used to open cages and pick up the dogs and cats plus talk to them.  The animals appreciated that but it also taught me a lot about animal behavior that followed me throughout my career as a veterinarian.

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