It's Not a Vacation for Me!

Paper Trained
Scott Sandeman, D.V.M
Q.)  We have a fairly active Brittany spaniel that hates being away from us-she had serious issues with diarrhea over spring break at the boarding facility and we are going to have to leave her again for wedding in June.  The kennel wants us to bring her own food and check with our veterinarian about a plan to keep that from happening again.  Do you have any suggestions?
A.)  Your friend is not alone.  The stress of being housed away from home affects many pets with similar consequences.  Some pets will manifest this anxiety by developing gastrointestinal disease while others may refuse to eat, pace back and forth or even vocalize.   It’s good to try to minimize these reactions for all in involved. Here are some steps to help:
1). Stress and/or a new diet can be an obvious contributor to diarrhea and even vomiting.   You are right to discuss food with the kennel-either bringing your own or making sure a bland, low fat diet is available at the boarding facility is advised.  Starting probiotics(live bacterial culture) a day or two before the event and continuing while your pet is there is very safe and can be effective-ask your veterinarian for their recommendation for the probiotic.   It’s wise to not over feed the first day or two as well-pets are generally less active in a kennel situation and need less anyway.
2.)  Anti-anxiety medications are under utilized in this situation.  Again, discuss with your veterinarian if your dog or cat is a candidate for some pharmacological help while boarding.  Used properly, these drugs can greatly alleviate stress without causing undo sedation.  Currently, gabapentin for cats and trazodone for dogs can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help alleviate some of the stress of boarding.
3.)  While it takes some dedication and time, acclimating your pet to the boarding kennel can go a long way to minimizing the stress of staying somewhere new.  Most facilities would welcome you to visit with your pet -even if it’s just a short visit to the waiting room.  Combining a couple of these trips with a few of your friends favorite treats on arrival at the kennel can make a future visit less stressful.
Most pets will adjust to a boarding reservation with little or no stress.  For those that are more anxious, make sure you visit with your veterinarian and especially the kennel operator to make sure you have done everything you can do to prevent a problem and what to do in case an issue arises.

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