Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Selecting a Kennel

Pet Column for the week of July 17, 2006

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907
Amanda Barth
Public Engagement Program Manager

Long before the terms day care, bed and breakfast, day camp, hotel, boutique and health club became common phrases among those in the ranks of pet ownership, boarding kennels have been providing services to pet owners who must leave their pets at home while they travel. Pets depend upon their owners to provide them with the best care, and oftentimes finding a suitable kennel fills that bill.

While the creature comforts available at some of today's more extravagant kennels are meant more for the peace-of-mind of the pet owner, the basic safety of your pet and the overall ability of the facility's staff are the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a kennel.

To find a kennel best suited to your pet's needs, Dr. Allan Paul, small animal Extension veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana, advises asking your friends, co-workers, neighbors and veterinarian for a recommendation. Visit the kennels they recommend and ask a few questions of the staff to learn more about the accommodations available for your pet. The staff should be courteous and helpful and should interact well with the pets in the kennel.

When visiting the kennels, there are a few things you should ask or look for. First and foremost, ask to see the area where your pet will stay. Look for secure gates on runs and a security fence around the premises to prevent your pet from becoming an escape artist. Make sure each living area is clean and constructed of materials that are easily sanitized (grass and gravel cannot be sanitized); they should all be cleaned and disinfected daily. If your pet will be housed in a crate, find out how frequent the breaks from the crate will occur and how often opportunities for exercise will be provided. Proper ventilation and temperature control are also vital to your pet's health during its stay at a kennel.

Ask about arrangements for the special needs of your pet and the availability of a veterinarian should one be necessary. It is important that your pet have available to it medication for treating special medical conditions. It is equally important that access to a veterinarian be available should your pet become ill during your absence.

Find out if kennels in your state are required to be inspected on a regular basis. If they are, look for a prominently displayed license in the facility. A well-maintained facility should be relatively free of bad odors and there should be no signs of feces or parasite infestation.

Ask about vaccination requirements for pets staying at a particular kennel. Some kennels will require nothing more than a rabies vaccination, but for the health of your pet it is important to select a kennel that requires more. Dogs should be vaccinated for rabies, distemper (which also includes parvo and several other diseases) and bordetella (kennel cough). Cats should be vaccinated for rabies, feline distemper and, if the facility accommodates large numbers of cats, feline leukemia. Vaccinations should be given at least two weeks prior to a kennel stay. When updating your pet's vaccinations, your veterinarian can also conduct a quick physical exam and provide you with a health certificate that some kennels may require.

Once you've selected a kennel, it is important to make a reservation in advance and follow-up with a confirmation a few days before you leave. "Reputable facilities fill up well in advance. Give yourself plenty of time to research area facilities and make a decision that is best for you and your pet," says Dr. Paul.

As you prepare for your trip, it is important to prepare your pet for its trip as well. Pack any necessities for your pet: medications, regular food, health certificate, your contact information while you'll be away from home and your veterinarian's contact information. It's also a good idea to pack a familiar item from home, such as a favorite toy or a blanket.

You'll want to alert the kennel to any unique habits that your pet may have. Let them know if your pet has any chewing habits, an aversion to a specific gender or species, a particular sensitivity to a specific body part, or anything else out of the ordinary.

When you drop your pet off for its stay, it is important to keep your emotions in check. Your pet will be in tune to your emotions and will respond accordingly. Your pet may become anxious or agitated if it senses you're feeling the same. While you may be apprehensive about leaving your pet, most pets quickly adapt to the kennel experience.

A small amount of preliminary research and planning will allow you to enjoy your trip knowing that your pet is well cared for in your absence. Contact your local veterinarian for more information about selecting a kennel for your pet.