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What to pack when boarding your pet

Opting to board your pet is never an easy decision—it’s hard enough to leave and dropping them into the hands of strangers is tough. Planning ahead—ensuring that your beloved animal has all the essentials—can ease the anxiety on both sides. Consider packing the following items to help with the coping process, separation stresses and any other concerns.

Records. Any boarding service will want shot records, along with other health paperwork and information. Documents that depict anything about your pet’s health is important. Call ahead to make sure you know everything you’ll need. Make copies of your originals and pack them in a convenient little folder for attendants who will be checking you in.

Medicines. This is one thing you don’t want to forget, as it can be difficult to attain replacements for medications once you’ve dropped off your furry one, and have flown thousands of miles away. It’s best a few days before you leave to keep a notepad handy, and to jot down a reminder every time you use something your pet will need. “Oh, Fido’s eyes are dry today, he needs his drops,” you say to yourself—go ahead and write that down. Even if you don’t think the medicine is needed, pack it in case.

Tip: Boarding your dog at your local veterinarian can alleviate a little stress when it comes to remembering all medications.

A Favorite Toy. While it’s not advisable to send something that would be absolutely devastating to lose, find a toy your pet is particularly fond of and send it along. This provides comfort, and of course something fun to chew on when sitting in their boarding quarters. Another option is to introduce a new toy about a week in advance, use it to play with your pet often, then send that one instead of something more sentimental.

Something with Your Scent. Just by smelling your scent, your dog can feel a great sense of comfort and joy. When in an unfamiliar place like a kennel, this can be a crucial component in getting them through. Pack a small baby blanket, that you’ve slept with for a few nights, in their things and instruct the temporary caregiver to keep it with your baby.

Tip: If you need something smaller, try a face cloth with a specific print so that it doesn’t get lost easily.

Food. With all the uncertainty that already comes with a boarding experience, the last thing you want to do is change up diet. So, pack up plenty of your dog or cat’s current kibble, along with preferred treats.

Tip: Premeasure meals into plastic baggies and include feeding instructions.

Leash. You’ll need to provide a leash for potty and recreation breaks--pick one you know your pet is comfortable with. Harnesses are best in case your four-legged friend isn’t fond of the unfamiliar face on the other end of the leash and decides to jerk away.

Contact Info. Be sure the establishment has all necessary contact information for you. If you won’t have your cell phone regularly, instruct how you can be quickly reached in an emergency situation.

Tip: Include the contact info of a family member or trusted friend as well, if there could possibly be an instance where you are not able to be reached.

Investigate. Before you have to leave for the trip, consider a familiarization visit with your pet. Go to the boarding facility and have a look around, make sure things look in order. Talk with the people who will be caring for your baby and see how your pet reacts to them.

Choosing your veterinarian for caring for animals while away is a great choice, because they know your little one, and they have the facilities to take care of them if they get sick. Regardless, boarding is often unavoidable—just make a check list and provide the comforts from home.

Editor’s Note: In those instances when you cannot bring your pet along for the trip, boarding, pet hotels or sitters may be ideal. Here’s what you need to know about boarding your pet.


Karyn Wofford is a “Mom” to her fluffy, sweet dog Halli. She spends much of her time traveling and advocating for Type 1 diabetes—and Halli sometimes accompanies her on her adventures. You’ll find Karyn’s work on sites like Mother Earth Living, and in magazines such as Diabetes Forecast.

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