By Dr. Monica Tarantino
There’s a lot to consider when deciding if you should board an older pet. Having watched so many pet parents stress about this situation, here are 3 important things to take into account before boarding your senior dog.
But first, let's start with a few things that make senior dogs different as a group.
Senior Dogs Are Different
The first thing to recognize is that your older dog is different than its younger counterparts. Even if your old dog acts like a puppy! Young dogs are often able to handle stressors better than older dogs for a variety of reasons.
Many senior dogs experience the onset of diseases like arthritis or even a decrease in their senses like seeing and hearing. These decreases may be occurring even if you do not notice them!
In fact, senior dogs are notorious for acting normal on the outside despite the onset of disease occurring internally. For geriatric dogs, many of them actually have diagnosed diseases where they need medications given to them at certain times of the day.
Now that we've established that, let's talk about the three things that matter for our dogs when we board them.
1. Routines: Routines are important to dogs of every age, but they’re even MORE important to senior dogs who need things like medications, more frequent potty breaks, and low-impact exercise.
One of the things that we know happens when we leave town is that our dog’s routines get adjusted. Kennels have to run on their own systems and timeframes (and normally have decent systems) but they’re not the routines or environments that your pet is used to which can be difficult on older dogs.
Older dogs often can not see or hear as well. They may not play as well or be able to respond to other playful pets as easily as they get older. So even places with doggy daycare can be stressful for senior dogs who may not be used to playing a lot with other dogs or may have decreased abilities to tell other pets to leave them alone. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 2. The Environment: as we discussed above, the change in routines can be stressful for older dogs and this includes their environment! Most dogs like for things to be predictable. Taking them to places they are unfamiliar with on a routine basis can be stressful!
Kennels can be very loud and busy, especially during the holidays, which can contribute to their stress. Younger dogs can handle this a bit better especially if they are already socialized and experience thriving in daycare. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 3. Attention to Health Details and Swift Action:
Lastly, sometimes in the business of a traditional kennel environment, little clues of a pet being sick or stressed like a decreased appetite or a little GI upset may go unnoticed. This is pretty critical with senior dogs and geriatrics.
There have been multiple times in the hospital where I have seen pets that have had diarrhea or vomiting at kennels come in and have an illness set in right at the same time an owner was gone. It can be challenging to identify the signs of illness in a pet that a kennel member does not see every day. Oftentimes in kennels, they have different shifts coming in and so what someone saw in the morning may not be relayed to the evening shift for a few shift changes.
Our Take⠀⠀⠀⠀ Because of all of the above, we really believe it is a lot easier to have a petsitter that you trust to come to your house and stay with your senior pet if at all possible. If that is not possible, then a kennel that you have spoken to at length may be an ok option. Some veterinary clinics will have special needs boarding for senior pets whose parents are out of town and in those situations they may actually have hospital members giving the pets treatments as needed. Best to ask if that is the case and how much care and attention your senior pet will get. Hospitals can be great, but sometimes they are busy and those in boarding may not get the attention they want to give to them.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In conclusion, my take is kennels are ok and in the future, I’ll go through tips on picking a kennel for senior dogs but I strongly prefer an at-home petsitter that you trust. Often at the larger kennels, it’s multiple people going in and out and so things can get overlooked more easily.🤍 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ When we leave town, we arrange for a trusted pet sitter to stay at our house and take care of our dogs. We actually tend to have a petsitter and a separate dog walker because it just works better for my multidog household. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ How do you handle your pets when you’re away from home? Do you have a trusted pet sitter, take them with you, or have an alternative plan to care for your senior pet while you’re out of town?
Let's help our best friends be here with us for longer.
5 Ways to Extend Your Dog's Life
In this webinar, Dr. Tarantino and Dr. Lippman teach you 5 key methods backed by research to help you give your dog a happier and longer life. Learn the simple yet effective blueprint they teach and become the best dog mom or dad for your pet in the process.