Holiday care for pets: Pete the Vet podcast from Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

This week’s podcast focussed on holiday pet care: to listen, click on the podcast link below.

If you are planning on heading off for holidays soon, it’s almost too late to make arrangements for your pets: you should have done this several months ago. The best boarding kennels and pet sitters will already be booked up.

Still, there are always last minute options, and it’s never too late (right up until you leave for the airport). One thing is certain: if you have pets, you need to have a good way of having them cared for when you are not there.

1) Asking friends and family to help out

Cats are often independent minded creatures, and all that may be needed is someone to call in twice daily to feed them, give them attention and make sure they are well. A neighbour, a friend, or family may be able to do this for you. Dogs are different: they need more sustained, ongoing care.

2) Taking your pet with you

Holiday destinations have cottoned on to the fact that many people prefer to bring their pets with them. If you are considering this, check first that your holiday accommodation is “pet friendly” and that there are activities to do that can include animals : websites such as and will help you plan.

If you are going to visit UK, Europe or the USA, you will need a pet passport for your dog or cat, with rabies vaccinations given at least 3 weeks before your departure date. You also need to consider travel arrangements: while pets are usually welcomed on ferries, it can be frustratingly difficult to try to transport them by air: most airlines that operate from Ireland are just not interested.

3) Boarding kennels

For many years, boarding kennels were the standard way to have dogs (and sometimes cats) cared for while you go on holidays. There are other options these days, but a good boarding kennel is still hard to beat for security, safety of your pet and predictability.

  • a) Plan as far as possible in advance: the best kennels are booked out for the summer season and if you leave it too late, you won’t have the same level of choice of places
  • b) Double check that your pets’ vaccines are up to date, especially for Kennel Cough. If vaccines have gone out of date, you could be refused entry into boarding kennels at the last minute.
  • c) If you can, it’s worth leaving your pet in at your chosen boarding kennel for a trial weekend before the longer holiday period.

Many countries – such as the UK – have strict government-run licensing systems for boarding kennels and catteries, to ensure that high standards are maintained. In Ireland, there’s no such system: anybody can set up a boarding facility, running it in whatever way they see fit. Boarding kennels may be run in sheds, garages and private back yards. Of course they are meant to have planning permission, but there’s a grey area between looking after a few animals for friends and family, and running a commercial boarding kennels. There are no rules, and it’s a free market. As a result, it’s up to pet owners to screen kennels on their own, and this can be difficult for many people who may not be aware of the subtleties of looking after animals. At busy times of year in particular, people can be so desperate to find somebody to look after their pet that they’ll accept any level of care that’s available.

To help pet owners, there is one established benchmark of quality, set up by the Irish Boarding Kennel and Cattery Association: all members must agree to fulfil the IBKCA Code of Ethics. If any kennel fails to come up to the expected standard, the IBKCA will investigate the situation on behalf of the pet owner, and take whatever action is appropriate.
Visit for a list of kennels and catteries around Ireland


4) Pet and house sitters

In this internet, sharing economy era, there are two new cost-effective possibilities

a) Pet sitters such as This website (and there are other similar ones) connects up pet owners with dog-loving members of the public who are happy to mind pets in their own home. The option gives your pet an experience which is more what they are used to – idling around a family home all day, going for walks with friendly people, sleeping in the kitchen, whatever – it is very different from being in an enclosed kennel and run, so many people prefer it for their home loving pets.
There are two types of customers who this works for. First, there are dog-loving people who want to earn some cash by minding pets. A wide range of people sign up as pet minders – from professional petsitters to veterinary students and nurses to members of the public who are experienced dog owners. They all have two things in common: they enjoy the company of dogs and they are able to fit an extra dog into their home and lifestyle. The Housemydog website scrutineers are very selective and only approve 3 out of every 10 applications: applicants have to go through a rigorous screening process.
The second “HouseMyDog” customer is the dog owner who is looking for an alternative to boarding kennels for their pet. For these people the process is simple: they type in the area where they live, and the dates when they want to have their pet minded. A list of potential minders then pops up: they click on the minder of their choice, and the booking is made.
There are reassuring security aspects built in to the system: for example, all pet minders are covered by complimentary emergency veterinary insurance in case their pet has an accident or falls ill. And an online review system means that pet minders soon build up track records of reliability. Most people make sure they meet a new minder first (perhaps going for a short dog walk together), and ideally they arrange a ‘trial stay’ for a couple of hours or overnight, so that they can thoroughly check the minder and their home out before leaving them there for a longer period.

b) For pet owners who have more than one dog, rather than leaving them to be cared in someone else’s house, it can make more sense to have a pet sitter come to live in your own home while you are away. You can set this up informally, with a friend, or you can employ a professional pet and house sitter. The website offers an innovative option: having your pets minded “for free”. You offer potential pet sitters the opportunity to live in your house, and perhaps even use your car, while you are away, in return for looking after your pets. If you live in an area that people from other countries wish to visit, this allows them to have free accommodation in return for the daily task of looking after your pets.

By the way, this website also works the other way; if you are a pet lover who is looking for cheap accommodation when you go on holiday, then you can register at the website and search through many interesting properties around the world that have pets that need minded, and you can stay there for free in return for some dog walking and cat minding duties. I’ve done this several times myself.

Queries from listeners

  • Could you ask Pete about the temperament of a Samoyed dog? I got attacked by one with horrific injuries and read that if their not properly trained,(ie:not included in family life,left in the garden etc) hey may turn aggressive or run at another dog or person as they are working dogs and naturally run for prey. Best regards, Sade
  • My 7 year old male neutered cat eats a lot of rabbits plus a normal cat’s diet at home. When he brings home a rabbit (baby), he eats it all, skin, skull and bones but leaves the guts. Can Pete tell me can all those bones be broken down in his stomach, especially when he has so many? He could sometimes have one rabbit a day. He’s a large cat but I wouldn’t say overweight but certainly not skinny and is very happy and healthy. I’m just quite curious as to how so much bone can be digested! Thanks. Natacha
  • I bought my two boys goldfish named Bubble and Rick !!! We are off to our holidays for two weeks in Ireland to our caravan. We are going to bring them with us, its an hour drive so do I keep them in the bowl or put them in a bag from the pet shop when we are in the car and when we get there re-house them back into their bowl? Annie
  • My dog died tragically recently from a twisted stomach. He was only 6. The vet didn’t spot the twisted stomach and so we are devastated because something could have been done to save him. Is this, in your experience, a common occurrence?
  • We have a 6 year old Shiba Inu dog who has a lovely pink belly. Except it’s turning black . She has no other symptoms like itching or anything else . She is a Sun worshipper and every chance she gets she will go and lie out in the sun . Is the sun causing the blackness or is it something else. Bernadette, Booterstown

To find out the answers, listen to the podcast by clicking on the link below.

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