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Back to Boarding Basics


A cat sitting on a couch in front of a Christmas tree

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring… except for the 75 pound bundle of love that’s been stalking the Christmas tree since the family cat claimed the beautiful boughs her fortress. “How pleased my humans will be,” thinks the dog, “when they come home to find I’ve banished the feline parasite from our festive foliage! Sure there’s shattered ornaments on the ground, and half of the carefully wrapped packages are smooshed, and most of the tree lights have been removed, but that’s the price that comes with having such a hero at their beckon call.”


My family’s holiday traditions have evolved over the last couple years, however, one thing I can always count on is Christmas morning at my in-laws. Every year the living room is a scene from a heartwarming holiday movie- the beautiful tree surrounded by perfectly wrapped gifts, stockings overflowing with knick-knacks and goodies, and two toddlers darting in and out of every room, clearly still riding the sugar high from Christmas Eve’s baking with Grandma and Grandpa.


If the smells wafting from the kitchen to the guest house aren’t enough to pull my husband and me from our peaceful slumber, the simmering anxiety that comes with leaving a big dog alone with an indoor tree and a new kitty for the last 24 hours is sure to do the trick. We brave the chilly walk from the guest house to the living room where steaming cups of coffee and warm blankets are waiting, but I know there will be no cozy relaxation until I can ensure my living room looks like a quieter (and admittedly less festively flawless) version of the one before me. The Ring app on my phone fires up as my husband says, “I’m sure it’s fine. Natalie was there last night to check in. How much destruction can one dog and one cat really do in just a few hours?”


When your cat and dog duo is alarmingly efficient, the answer is “a lot.”


From mid-November to early January, there are countless occasions worthy of celebration! However, along with the joys that come with the holiday season, it’s often difficult to ignore the subtle stress that accompanies shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, hosting, traveling- the holiday to-do list goes on and on! While we’re caught up in the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to miss how overstimulating the holiday routine (or lack thereof) can be to our fur family. Whether you’re hosting or traveling this year, boarding your dog or cat can actually be a far less stressful way for your whole family to spend the holidays.


Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to finding the right boarding facility for your pet, the choices can be overwhelming. As you consider different options, keep in mind boarding facilities come in many unique forms. What works for some might not work for all! As a pet owner, you have the opportunity to investigate local boarding facilities to figure out which one fits your fur family best - after all, you know your pet’s personality better than anyone!


Investigate Local Boarding Options


Ask Questions


Whether it be your veterinarian, doggie daycare + boarding, or a more traditional kennel facility, it’s important to get a feel for their qualifications, requirements, and standard operating procedures (SOP). A few things to consider when forming your interview questions might be:

  1. Is the boarding facility licensed with the state? Depending on where you live, state-licensed boarding facilities are held to specific standards. For instance, Kansas-licensed boarding facilities must undergo a yearly inspection by a member of the Animal Facilities Inspection (AFI), a division of the Department of Agriculture. To become licensed, the facility must meet all standards laid out by the AFI as well as undergo an inspection by a licensed veterinarian.

  2. What does the facility require from their guests? Do animals need to be up to date on vaccinations? If so, which ones? This is important to ensure your pet meets the vaccine requirements but also gives you an idea of what your dog or cat might be exposed to during their stay. Do animals need to be current on parasite prevention, regardless of season? Unfortunately colder weather does not eliminate the transmission or infection of internal or external parasites. It would be a shame for your pet to bring home a new creepy, crawly friend they met while boarding. Do animals need to go through a socialization screening session prior to boarding? This is especially important if you intend to select a facility that allows for group playtime during the day.

  3. What is the facility's emergency plan for pets? Unfortunately, boarding facilities are not immune to medical emergencies. Does the facility have an on-site veterinarian? If not, are they willing to work with your family’s vet in case your dog or cat needs immediate medical attention while you’re away?

  4. What is the facility’s SOP during disease outbreaks? In Kansas, the most common disease associated with boarding and daycare facilities is Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis (also known as “Bordetella” or Kennel Cough). When interviewing boarding facilities, ask about their history/experience with Kennel Cough (and other diseases). What do they do during outbreaks? Do they have a specific quarantine area or is there a chance your dog will need to be immediately removed from the facility?

  5. Does the facility have an SOP for emergency weather? There’s nothing like a winter storm to add another sprinkle of stress to the holidays. What is the standard operating procedure for a December blizzard that knocks out the power? Are there generators available to keep guests warm or do they rely on cozy blankets? The latter option isn’t ideal for an anxious dog that shreds anything he can reach.


Tour the Facility


Ask for a tour! Again, not every boarding facility is created equal and, unfortunately, what is advertised isn’t always what you get. While on your tour, pay special attention to the kennels. They should be clean and mostly rid of biological waste. Also, size matters: there should be enough room in individual kennels for your pet to eat and drink in a space separate from where they sleep and free of potty accidents. If the boarding facility offers playtime, it’s not inappropriate to request to see the play area and ask what “playtime” looks like. Your expectation might be your dog playing fetch with his favorite ball but if the boarding facility can only accommodate on-leash activities, that expectation is far from becoming reality.


What about our nervous friends? Many facilities will have a “quiet” dog room and a separate cat-only room. Ask to see one or both if you’re checking in a cat or you have a dog that would benefit from being housed with less opinionated guests. Additionally, anxiety easing diffusers and pheromones can be helpful in the boarding setting. What tools does the facility use to ensure their guests reach optimum levels of comfort?


Before Check-In


We can’t let you go without a little veterinary advice. Before you board, come see us! We’ll get you prescriptions refilled and vaccinations taken care of in one easy trip to Candlewood Vet Clinic. However, (just like most boarding facilities) our schedule is booked in advance, so please don’t wait until the last minute. We want to make sure we provide your pet(s) the time and attention they deserve!


Vaccination Recommendations for Boarding*

  • Bordetella Vaccination (aka Kennel Cough) Bordetella is a bacterial infection that is highly prevalent in boarding and social settings. We recommend yearly boosters of the vaccine, though some boarding facilities require a booster every 6 months due to the overwhelming nature of the infection. Ideally, your dog should be vaccinated for Bordetella at least 1 week prior to boarding to ensure your pet generates adequate immune protection.

  • Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) VaccinationBecause CIV has a high infection rate in boarding facilities, kennels, and parks, we recommend your dog receive a CIV vaccine yearly if they frequent any venue where they might come in contact with other dogs. Ideally, CIV vaccination should be completed at least 2 weeks prior to boarding to ensure your pet generates adequate immune protection.

*The Bordetella vaccination and CIV vaccination should be completed in addition to the canine core vaccinations: DA2PP Vaccination (Distemper Virus, Adenovirus Type 2, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza Combination), and Rabies Vaccination.


In conjunction with vaccinations and ensuring your pet’s prescriptions are refilled, please consider whether or not your pet might benefit from anxiety interventions while boarding. Our doctors and staff are happy to discuss ideas on how to manage anxiety and supply your family with the appropriate supplements or medications (if needed). Before your appointment, don’t hesitate to peruse our “Tackling Anxiety” blog to get a feel for a few of the options we’d recommend.


Additional Resources


More on Vaccinations and General Boarding Preparation:


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