It is the beginning of a New Year and in most places around the country, the wind is blowing, the snow is snowing and thoughts of vacations are still far away.
However, if you are planning a vacation in the coming months and you are the owner of one pet or several, now is the time to start thinking of alternative pet care while you are away.
Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a family member or a great neighbor, that is willing to step in and take over for you, wonderful.
However, many of us are not that lucky and we need to find a suitable kennel to take care of our pets.
During the last 20 years or so, the world of pet kennels has changed beyond our wildest dreams.
If you thought finding the right hotel for you to stay in was a challenge, wait until you begin to search for your dog or cat's temporary home.
Most of us become a little anxious when we have to leave our pets in someone else's care, so finding the right boarding facility is very important.
My suggestion is to start looking when you have some free time and are not anxious or rushed.
Boarding kennels run the full gamut from the very basic, to accommodations that include color TV's and couches to sleep on.
It truly depends on your budget, what your dog is used to and if you want your dog to socialize with other dogs.
In your search you will find the basic or traditional kennels that offer, a dog run, indoor sleeping areas, and minimal extra care, over and above feeding and keeping the area clean.
Some boarding facilities offer day care along with overnight stays, many veterinarians have boarding facilities and then there are the very "upscale" boarding facilities that offer every amenity a person could ask for, let alone a dog.
Prices vary from $15.00 a night to $80.00 and more, depending on what you are looking for, the area in which you live and the size of your pet.
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you go out looking for suitable accommodations.
The traditional kennel depending on location will offer the basic care for your pet. The dogs will spend most of their time in their kennel, except for some exercise time outside.
Most traditional kennels follow their own feeding schedules and do not offer much in the line of extra services.
The day care/boarding kennels offer the opportunity for your pet to socialize not only with other boarders, but also with the day care dogs.
However, this requires a dog that is used to going to a dog park or other places, where it is used to socializing with new dogs.
A veterinary boarding facility for some gives peace of mind, because you know the vet is on call and if your pet should get sick, it is in good hands.
However, there is a negative side to that, if the boarding facility is located within the confines of the pet hospital there is a remote possibility that your pet can pick up a germ or two.
There is also a chance that your dog might be kept in a crate, instead of an area with a run and exercised only at specific times.
Up scale facilities are generally very expensive and in truth offer "no free lunches," you are charged for everything.
They have no problem in carrying out your every wish for your pet, but expect to pay.
Cats have also moved up in the world of boarding. There are the basic facilities that keep the kitties in fairly large cages with their own litter boxes and food.
Then there are some facilities that have separate large berths for cats, that offer a window for seeing the world beyond, scratching posts, soft music, perches to climb and a soft bed.
There are high-end facilities that allow cats who are social, to spend time together in a large playroom, again with all types of amenities.
Truthfully, not many cats enjoy all this, as they prefer to be home. It is far easier on a cat to stay home, as new places create a great deal of stress.
If there are no family members or accommodating neighbors to care for your cat, consider hiring a bonded cat sitter.
A cat sitter would not cost too much more than most boarding facilities and having another person moving about the house adds a bit more security.
Just be certain the person is "bonded" and do check references.
There are several other things to consider when boarding your pet.
If you have 2 or more dogs that you want kept together, these takes planning and research, as many places do not have the facilities to keep two or more dogs together.
Make certain that any facility you choose requires that all pets that are boarded, present proof that their shots are up to date.
Make certain the kennel is air-conditioned (heated) and that the humidity is not overwhelming. Humid air can be a breeding place for many kinds of bacteria and other germs.
Make certain that the facility is clean. Check to see that the kennel floor and dog runs are made of nonporous material (concrete.) Wood flooring or any flooring that can absorb water will also absorb germs and bacteria.
Check to see that there is no leftover food sitting around in the kennels. The kennel bowls should be made of stainless steel or some other nonporous material, as boarding kennels can be a great source for picking up unwanted germs.
Though dogs seem to eat just about anything, if your dog is used to a certain type of food make certain that the kennel will feed it only that type. You undoubtedly, will have to provide it, but this could save you a problem, as some dogs will develop intestinal problems, when their food source is changed to abruptly.
As careful as you may try to be, your dog may pick up what is known as "kennel cough," this is an annoying contagious coughing disease that dogs seem to love to pass on to each other. For the most part it is not serious, can be annoying, but is very treatable by our vet.
I have tried to touch just the tip of the "boarding iceberg" in an effort to help you become an informed boarding shopper.
Do not look for a boarding kennel when you are rushed, take your time and be selective.
Your pet's health and well being is at stake.