Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
Schools are getting out shortly, and people are planning or leaving on their summer vacations. I am a hopeless traveler and typically prefer to stay home, but if you are in the more normal group, you may have your beach trips all planned. 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
Most cats don’t like riding in cars and don’t like change (maybe I am part cat, after all) and so aren’t apt to want to join you on vacation. 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 the mountains to bike and hike, count them in. If you planned to hang out on the porch of a beach house or on the beach and your dog loves to nap, bring them! 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 (or beaches) 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 once took my cat on a cross-country trip (not optional) and I will tell you that she didn’t enjoy a single national park. You also must remember that if it is hot and you are taking a pit stop, they can’t stay in the car. So you will need to plan to have someone sit in the AC with them, which can put a damper on your trip (or be a positive, depending on how your family is getting along.)
Where to leave them
This is a very pet-dependent question, but in most cases, the answer is at their 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.
The most important thing is finding a house sitter that you and your pets are comfortable with. This might be a professional or someone you know. Make sure that you have the house sitter run through the routine, meet your pets, and walk your dogs, to know that everyone is comfortable.
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. Some people tell us to do basics, some tell us to do nothing without talking to them, and some tell us to do anything and everything. 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! It may be second nature to you, but to a house sitter, they will be new situations. If something is going to happen, there is a good chance it will happen when you are up in the mountains with no phone reception.
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. Many vacation times are popular, and things get booked up, so plan things out ahead of time. It is always a good idea to keep pets up to date on vaccines, so that if something comes up suddenly you won’t be stuck. 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.