Vacation Time: Keep Your Pet Safe and Happy While You are Away


South Boston Animal Hospital blog on keeping your pets comfortable while you're away

Leaving your pets behind when you travel can be hard; but with a little forethought, you can make their stay at home more comfortable.

Summer is approaching quickly, and with it comes the promise of vacation—camping trips, long mountain hikes, sunbathing by the beach. But while you're perusing itineraries and shopping for a new bikini, your most faithful friend may not realize that he won't be coming along for the ride. Leaving your pet at home while you are traveling can be stressful for an animal who is accustomed to spending every night listening to the familiar sound of your breathing as you sleep. With these few tips, however, you can make your pet more comfortable while you are gone.

Should I Bring My Pet Along?

If you will only be traveling for a few hours, especially to a familiar destination, there should be no problem with bringing your pet along for the ride. A several hour trip to a location where your pet will spend most of his time in an unfamiliar hotel room—or worse, an unfamiliar crate—may be more stressful on your animal than spending a few days at home without you. And if you will be traveling by plane, says Brian Brophy, a veterinary surgical resident at the University of Pennsylvania, the risks of flying may not be worth the trip:

"General signs of distress include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. If the dog collapses or shows signs of difficulty breathing (excessive panting, purple or blue-tinted gums), that's an emergency and the dog should be evaluated immediately."

If you know that your pet would be more comfortable staying at home than traveling with you, go ahead and let him stay home. He'll be happy to see you when you get back. 

Keeping Your Pet Safe at Home While You Vacation

The best way to keep your pet safe while you are gone, recommends the US Humane Society, is to hire a pet-sitter or have a friend or family member check on him regularly. Professional United Pet Sitters (PUPS) suggests three visits per day for indoor-only pets, and at least one visit daily for indoor/outdoor animals.

  • Have your pet-sitter visit at least once before you leave, so your pet can meet them and won't feel threatened when they arrive at your house after you have left.
  • Schedule your pet-sitter's visits around your pet's normal daily routine. When he knows he will still have his walks and meals at the usual times, his anxiety level can be kept to a minimum. If your pet-sitter won't agree to work with your pet's schedule, find a different one.
  • Make sure to leave both your contact information and a number for your vet, along with anything the sitter will need to know about your pet's diet or medical needs.

    “Schedule your pet-sitter's visits around your pet's normal daily routine to reduce their anixiety while you're away” TWEET THIS

Boarding Your Pet While You Are Away

In some cases, it simply may not be possible to keep your furry friend at home while you're on vacation. Perhaps he needs close supervision because of a medical condition, or maybe you just don't want him alone in the house for safety reasons. Whatever the case, boarding your pet can be a solution. If at all possible, take him to a family member's house for a sleepover—he will appreciate being somewhere that he is used to, even if it isn't home. Amy Tokic, writer for The Honest Kitchen, suggests these methods for easing anxiety if your pet has to be boarded:

  • Talk to the boarders. Find out what kind of things they will allow you to bring from home, and let them know if your pet has any medical issues to look out for or suffers from separation anxiety.
  • Send along some of your animal's favorite toys, his bed, and even an old shirt or pillow that smells like you. But if it's something that you absolutely don't want lost or ruined, leave it at home—toys can get passed around a boarding kennel even if they aren't supposed to be.
  • Make sure that he will get plenty of exercise at the kennel. Ideally, he should be able to spend several hours a day in a big play yard, socializing with the other pets that are at the kennel. If not, he should at least get several walks a day.

Give him toys that will keep him occupied. Chewy toys, puzzle toys, toys that dispense treats—as long as the kennel's policy will allow it, anything that can give him an hour or two of chewing entertainment is a good idea.
When you do your research well before you take off for the beach, you can turn what could be a stress-filled time into an enjoyable vacation for your pet. Talk to Dr. Waggener at South Boston Animal Hospital to find out more about keeping your pet safe while you are away, or to get your pet vacation-ready if you are planning to take him with you.