Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy While You Travel

It’s been a long couple of years of staying home and not traveling. But now that summer is right around the corner, we’re all thinking about vacation again. The beach? A golf outing? Disneyland with the kids? There are so many great places to visit. However, a successful vacation takes planning—and planning includes what to do with the four-legged family members who can’t come with us.

If you’re lucky enough to have close friends or family members nearby, the best option is to have them stop in (or better yet, housesit) while you’re away. It may sound like a simple task, but once you write up a comprehensive checklist of all the information they need (for each pet), you can see how much goes into it. God forbid something happens while you’re gone, but a simple note on the refrigerator could make all the difference in avoiding potential tragedy or confusion in the care of your pet.

You should leave individual care instructions for each pet in your household. It should look something like this:

Care Instructions for (Name of pet)

  • Breed and age
  • Meals (how much and when)
  • Walk schedule
  • Vaccination information
  • Health concerns and known stressors (such as fear of storms, fireworks, etc.)
  • Medications
  • Supplements (of course, this should include Canine Whole Body Support or Feline Whole Body Support from SP, wink-wink)
  • Veterinary contact info (including phone number)
  • Animal poison control phone number
  • Your contact information, travel itinerary, and additional contact information in case you cannot be reached

While close friends and family members may not expect to be paid, it’s always considerate to provide them with a full refrigerator of yummy food, their favorite beverages, and maybe some cash or a gift card in a sealed envelope to let them know how much you appreciate them.

Unfortunately, not all of us can count on family or friends while we’re away. If that’s the case, you can check into a pet sitter. But do your research! You are hiring someone who will not only be taking care of your pet but who will also be in your home. Ask around for referrals and references, and consider Pet Sitters International (PSI), the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters.

What if your only option is to board your pet? Many boarding kennels provide an array of amenities. Some include designated areas for playtime and socialization, grooming, and 24/7 livestream updates. Of course, the more amenities a facility offers, the more expensive it is likely to be.

Another option to consider is animal clinic kennels. The staff at boarding kennels usually don’t have the qualifications to give special medical assistance, but they can at animal clinics. Many veterinary clinics offer boarding. These types of kennels are ideal for dogs with special medical needs, but they tend to be a bit old-fashioned and sterile—no livestreams, text updates, or doggy spas. (Granted, I do know of some pretty amazing vet clinics that provide updated boarding amenities.) Another benefit of boarding at animal clinics is that they are more cost-effective. Whichever option you choose, here are some questions you should ask:

  • What is the facility’s protocol for vaccinations and parasite screening?
  • In case of emergency, what are their procedures, and what veterinarian will be contacted?
  • Can you plan a tour to inspect the cleanliness, atmosphere, and other dogs in the facility?
  • How much direct interaction will your pet receive in walks, playtime, and the like?
  • Does the facility provide medications or supplementations?
  • Can you bring your pet’s own bed, toys, bowls, and other belongings?
  • Should you provide the food?
  • What is the cost?
  • What are the pickup and drop off times?

It’s not uncommon for a dog to get sick after boarding. Most facilities do a great job keeping cages and common spaces clean, but it’s impossible to create an environment that is 100 percent sterile. Dogs can become sick after staying at even the most well-kept boarding facilities. Boarding and spending time away from their owners can be very stressful for pets. Elevated stress levels can cause internal havoc and deplete the body’s immune alliance. You don’t want your pet to be unprotected in tight enclosures with other pets, especially as other pets may also be stressed and possibly infected with a virus or bacteria.

To prevent kennel cough, canine flu, gastrointestinal viruses, and other common illnesses, make sure to improve their immune alliance with high-quality whole food nutrition prior to boarding. I highly recommend talking to your veterinarian about SP Canine Whole Body Support or Feline Whole Body Support. The immune system is not one discreet organ but a range of tissues and cellular functions, including bone marrow, thymus, small intestine, spleen, lymph tissue, and liver. These nutritional supplements provide a combination of vitamins, minerals, tissue substrates, and phytochemicals that have an immunomodulatory effect. They are known as functional foods, which contain a wide range of trace nutrients that benefit specific organs and tissues. The goal is to normalize immune function by supporting the entire range of tissues and cellular functions that make up the immune system.

It’s best to start supplementing a full four weeks prior to boarding. Continue twice a day during boarding and four more weeks after boarding. If you are boarding a dog that tends to get stressed or experiences separation anxiety, make sure to add Canine Adrenal Support to help maintain the adrenal gland’s response to metabolic demand, normalize adrenal function, support the body’s ability to handle stress, and promote the adrenal gland’s ability to rebuild and regenerate. Giving your pet the armor to defend and protect their health during boarding should be your top priority.

Whatever direction you decide to go with, trust your instincts. If you don’t think your pet will be happy, or if you are not happy with an aspect of their care, don’t risk it. Trust your gut and check out other facilities or individuals on your shortlist. After all, you won’t be able to enjoy your well-deserved vacation if you’re not entirely comfortable with your choice. It’s okay to be picky. Your pet deserves the very best.

Images from iStock/ablokhin (main), Halfpoint (dog in kennel).

Tracie Hoffman, VT

Tracie Hoffman is a veterinary technician with over 20 years of experience. She is able to use her knowledge of conventional veterinary approaches and her expertise in whole food nutrition to create better options for doctors and their staff. Although she is most present with Colorado Standard Process West clients, Tracie offers assistance via phone and email throughout the region. She hosts lunch and learn programs, reviews cases, provides protocols and assists clinics with start-up, client education and advertising. She has also developed a number of complementary veterinary reference aides, available from SPW. If you would like to contact Tracie, please email her at

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