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Vacation: Where Will You Leave Your Dog?

brown and white dog sitting on the couch

If you're planning to go on vacation, you may be wondering what to do with your four-legged friend. He would rather be with you, of course, but that's not always possible. There are times when you must leave him behind.

Boarding your dog

Boarding your dog at a kennel is a good choice if your dog is friendly and sociable. Dogs can readily adapt to staying at a kennel, especially if they were introduced to it at a young age. It's a good idea, though, to leave him for short periods, such as weekends, before leaving him for a longer trip.

Finding a good kennel

Ask your vet and other dog owners for recommendations. Remember that other people may have different standards than you: For some people, location and price are the most important factors. Your vet or your breeder may have facilities for boarding dogs, and if so, these may be excellent options because they know your dog. It's worthwhile to ask around.

Once you have a list of kennels, visit each one and ask to inspect the facilities. Make sure accommodations are clean, dry, and hygienic—and that kennels, cages, and gates are in good repair. Ask to see where your dog will stay. Ideally, he should be provided with his own comfortable run. If the kennel operators are genuinely interested in making sure your dog is comfortable, they will be happy to provide you with a tour and answer any questions that you have.

Kennel questions you should ask:

  • How many dogs are there per assistant?
  • How often are the dogs exercised, and for how long?
  • Do the dogs get individual attention?
  • Will the kennel follow your feeding instructions?
  • Can you leave your dog with a favorite toy, his bed, or an article of clothing with your scent?

Finally, do not board your dog at a kennel that does not require proof of up-to-date vaccinations. If they are not checking to make sure your dog is healthy and disease free, they are not checking other dogs, either. You could be putting your dog at risk.

Once you've made your choice, book your dog's stay well in advance of your trip. Kennels fill up during holidays and peak vacation periods. Get your dog in to see the vet for vaccinations and shots well in advance, too, because some may take two weeks to take effect.

Dog sitters

When you must leave your dog behind, another option is to arrange for a dog sitter. A dog sitter can be a friend, relative, neighbor, or a professional service. If you choose this option, consider whether you would prefer your dog to stay at home, or stay in the sitter's home. You know your dog best, so you are the best judge of where he will be most comfortable.

The advantages of keeping your dog at home are that he will remain in familiar surroundings, he will get to sleep in his own bed, and he will not be stressed by the presence of other dogs. The dog sitter can also bring in your mail and newspapers, water your plants, and watch over your home. The disadvantages are that your dog will be alone a lot of the time (especially if the sitter doesn't stay in your home) and if he gets out, or becomes ill, it may be a few hours before the dog sitter arrives to notice.

If you arrange for a dog sitter, or hire a service, ask for references. You need to be sure that the person you engage is reliable, and that he or she will take the time to get to know your dog before your vacation. Ideally, they should become friends with your dog, and feed him and take him for a few walks before you leave.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall

    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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