Options for pet care when going on holiday

Dogs are part of the family: boarding kennels are not the only option when you go away

What do you do with your pets when you go away on holiday? This is one of the complications of pet ownership, and it’s best to think about it well in advance.

Taking your pet with you

Many people take their pets with them, but you do need to check before you leave that your destination accommodation is “pet friendly”.

If you are visiting the UK, remember that you need a pet passport for your dog or cat, which means rabies vaccinations at least 3 weeks before you go.

It’s more common though for people to have their pets cared for by others

Boarding kennels

The main tips are:

  • Plan well in advance: the best kennels are booked out for the summer season many months in advance
  • Make sure that your pets vaccines are up to date, especially against Kennel Cough. Some pets are refused entry into boarding kennels at the last minute because of an out-of-date vaccine certificate
  • Before committing to a boarding kennel, leave your pet in for a trial weekend beforehand. Boarding should be a pleasant experience for an animal rather than an ordeal. If your pet seems to enjoy a weekend’s stay, this bodes well for a longer spell away from home.

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 can be run in sheds, garages and private back yards. 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.

For pet owners who are looking for some sort of benchmark of quality, the Irish Boarding Kennel and Cattery Association is a good option: 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.

Pet and house sitters

There has been a huge recent expansion of holiday pet-care options, driven by the internet.

Here are two new possibilities, with the best choice depending on the specifics of the situation.

House My Dog

This website connects up pet owners with dog-loving members of the public who are happy to mind pets in their own home. This is a trend that started in the USA five years ago, and has become astonishingly popular.

There are two types of  customers who use the website.

First, there are people who want to earn some cash by minding pets. A wide range of people sign up as pet minders – from professional pet sitters 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 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.

Go to HouseMyDog.com

Trusted Housesitters

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 TrustedHousesitters 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.

For Irish pet lovers, this website offers the possibility of getting free accommodation in other interesting parts of the world in return for minding someone else’s pets: I spent three weeks in a villa in the mountains of Crete last summer, minding five dogs and three cats.

Go to TrustedHousesitters.com
B) Listeners’ questions about pets
1) We are looking to get a dog, we have always had dogs but we now have a three year old and a small baby. We are looking for a shorthaired big breed who is good with children. We have a big garden with high walls and can give daily walks etc but would prefer a dog that is not too high energy like a collie.

2) I give my dogs Tesco dental sticks daily I was wondering if they are as good as the main brand or should i swap to the main brand thanks from Kenneth in Dublin

3) I have a cross between a springer and a setter, it was a rescue dog four years ago as a puppy. I’m convinced she can read my mind! She is waiting at the door to go somewhere before we even mention it. Even when I had an underlying stomach problem, she was constantly growling at my tummy and scratching at it, Three days later I was in surgery. The night my father in law passed away, she started howling in the middle of the night. We got a call two mins later than he had died in hospital. Have scientists tried to examine the connection between dogs and their owners? Derek

4) What is Pete’s view on dog poo in the street. I live beside the sea and the pavements and green area around my area is covered in dog poo. It’s a complete disgrace plus it means I cant comfortably let my child play in the grass without my close supervision to ensure they don’t pick up some poo. Forget fines that are only occasionally implemented, something must be done.

5) We have a labrador. 10 months old. He is eating his poo no matter what we try. We watch him after eating and we get to him a lot of the time however if he goes in the kennel he has it gone before we get to him. Any tips on stopping this habit. Phil

6) I have tried to leave my dog in a kennel a number of times but have never been able to go though with it because I go to book them in and then I hear all the dogs barking and they sound so loney and I bottle it. Is is a good or bad sign that all the dogs in kennels are barking like mad. Mark

7) My 3 year old Staffie is neutered and is constantly humping my leg and nipping ,any advice? Ray, Rathgar

8) I know this sounds crazy, but when I had a dog, and was away, I’d ring her minder who’d put the phone to her ear so she could hear my voice. Admittedly the dog was confused but also wagged her tail thinking I was present in some sense and that I wasn’t dead and hadn’t abandoned her. Missing their owners is awful as they’ve no concept that you’re coming back. So leave a piece of clothing with your smell on it for them to cuddle into. Pets adore us so whatever it takes. -Marian.

9) My dog leaks since being spade and she takes hormone treatment for this. Will this cause problems as she drinks a lot of water.

10) I have a rescue indoor cat who is almost 2 years old. He is terrified of people. Can’t go on any more holidays as he gets very distressed when anyone calls to house. I have tried several remedies, but his fear of people remains. What can I do? Claire.

I talked all of these options on the Pat Kenny Show recently and you can listen to the discussion below.

Listen to the podcast:

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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