Getting away from it all: Tips to make vacations enjoyable for your pets, whether you take them along or leave them at home

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher / Photo

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

School’s out and summer vacation has started. I enjoy not venturing far from my house during time off, but this is the time of year when many people take off on vacations. Usually kids are included, though pets aren’t always invited along. What are some things to consider when deciding whether to take a pet, and what to do when you leave them? We will talk about vacation basics and things to think about concerning your pet.

When to bring them

The large majority of cats don’t enjoy travel, though there are a few exceptions. Dogs are more likely to want to go on vacation with you, but there are some things to consider. First, will they be able to do the majority of things with you? If you have an active dog and are going to Maine to bike and hike, count them in. If you have a lazy dog and are going to sit out on the porch of a rental and read all day, count them in. Make sure that your vacation plans match what your dog enjoys before bringing them. If you are going to museums all day and plays all night while your dog will simply sit in a rental, would they rather be in a familiar place?

Also, make sure that your hotels/rentals are pet-friendly before starting out. Not even all campgrounds allow dogs, so just because you are bringing your own housing, don’t assume you can bring a pet along. Even if you plan to have your dog with you, there might be times when they need to stay back at your home base for a period of time, so make sure that’s allowed.

There certainly are cats who like car rides, and if you are going away just to sit and read, a cat vacation may be a great idea. If you are going to be out and about a lot, most cats don’t enjoy trips to sit alone. I drove my cat back from college in LA, and I can assure you that although she was a good sport, she didn’t appreciate Zion (or anything else) very much.

Where to leave them

This is a very pet-dependent question, but in most cases the answer is home. If you can find a reliable sitter to stay with your pets at your house, it is usually the ideal situation. Your pets can stay together, they can sleep on their own stuff and sniff their own things. Some dogs love going away to environments where they can play all day, especially if they are social, only dogs. However, in multi-pet families and for many animals, staying at home is the next-best thing to you staying with them.

Finding a house sitter who you and your pets are comfortable with is very important. Introduce pets to a sitter and go through the routine before you are gone, so that everyone feels relaxed about it.

What to do before you leave

Make sure that if you will be available, you leave all contact numbers. Alert your veterinarian to the fact that an alternate will be seeking care and that it is approved. To make things really easy for us, we love if you give us guidelines. This is especially important if you will be out of the country or out of contact. These can range from “do nothing without talking to me” to giving us a budget, to “do anything and everything I can always remortgage.” Kidding about the last part, but when we can treat your pet without waiting around for approval it makes everyone’s life easier.

Make sure there is enough food and that any flea/tick/heartworm meds are available if they need to be given. Make sure you check to see if they need to be given during your time away. Also make sure that you spell out the “what ifs.” Often people have a protocol for what if it thunders/Fluffy gets diarrhea/Sparky doesn’t come in at dark and so on. Write these down! If something is going to happen, there is a good chance it will happen when you are in Nevada and your phone “breaks.”

If you are taking your pet, pack extras. No matter what, make sure that pets are identified. It is easy to get lost when pets are in an unfamiliar place or if they aren’t crazy about coming back to the unfamiliar voice that is calling them. ID collars and microchips are great, plus there are tons of varieties of GPS and tracking collars for hiking dogs.

The most important thing to do is prepare ahead of time. Make sure you have reserved a spot at a kennel, gotten your house sitter on the calendar, and updated your pets on any vaccines they will need. These are very unpleasant things to be dealing with last minute, and if you are like me, any added stress will cause you to forget whatever you needed to pack most.

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher

Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher is a veterinarian at All Points Animal Care in Rutland. Have a question on this or any animal health topic? E-MAIL:

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