Owning a senior dog can be surprisingly different from owning a puppy or an adult dog. They tend to have more health issues, special needs, and they might have more trouble being away from their owners. Because of this, there are some things you should know about boarding your senior dog, and there are things that you should tell your boarding facility, as well. Senior dogs might be a little bit more complicated, but loving one makes it all worthwhile.
What You Should Know
Because senior dogs can be a bit more sensitive to changes in their life, it is very important to take some precautions when boarding them. A boarding facility could be a bit overwhelming for your senior dog due to of all of the different smells, sights, and sounds, especially if they’ve never been there before or if they only go once a year. This can all be quite stressful for your dog and for you. The IBPSA (International Boarding & Pet Services Association) explains that, “Stress-induced hormones have effects on various body systems such as increased blood pressure forcing the heart to work harder, a slowdown of kidney and urinary systems, and a temporary shutdown of the immune system, which fights off disease and infections. Exhibited physical signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, or increased respiration.”
This might sound a bit scary, but as long as you’re prepared, your senior dog should be fine. The best way to prepare your dog for boarding is to introduce them to the facility before they stay there for a long period of time. A good way to do this is by taking your dog to daycare at the facility and maybe having them sleep over for a night so they can see what it’s like. It is important to find a facility that has an area specifically for senior dogs so they can have a break from the craziness that the younger dogs can produce. At Your Pet Space, we have a quiet area in the back with a sofa, a recliner, dog beds, lamps, and even a television that creates a homey feel for senior dogs. It is crucial for them to stay as calm and relaxed as possible so they don’t get too overwhelmed. Too much stress can even potentially make your dog sick. The IBPSA says, “Your pet care provider is responsible for providing a clean, safe, and caring environment and monitoring the health of the pets left in their care. Unfortunately, a boarding facility has no way of preventing a pet from becoming ill from the effects of stress.”
Because of this, it is very important for you to partner with your boarding facility so they can provide the best care possible for your senior dog. To avoid even more stress, you can also ask about home care. Your Pet Space provides home care for any animal (dog, cat, ferret, bird, you name it!) who may not fare as well in the facility. If you take your senior dog for a few days of daycare before your big trip and it seems too stressful for your furry friend, you can keep them at home and we can provide care for them there where they will be relaxed, comfortable, and stress-free.
What You Should Tell Your Provider
So, you’ve laid down the groundwork for boarding your senior dog and you are booking their stay at the facility or home care will be provided. Since caring for senior dogs can be much more complicated than caring for younger dogs, there is some information that you should always tell your provider. You should also keep them updated on your dog’s health and well-being for any future stays. Having this information before the stay will help your boarding provider give your dog the best care possible.
Please let your boarding facility know if your senior dog has any health issues and how they are being treated. Even if your dog has something as small as a cough, drippy eyes, or a recurring limp, it is good to know. Otherwise you might get a concerned call saying your dog might have kennel cough or may have hurt their leg while playing when it’s actually a minor, recurring issue. It is also very important to tell your boarding facility if your dog has any allergies to any foods or any airborne allergens. If your dog is very stressed and not eating, the facility may try feeding them a different type of food so it is good for them to know if that would cause an allergic reaction. Also, the facility might offer some natural, calming supplements to your dog if they seem overly stressed. If your dog has known food allergies, they could react poorly to that, as well.
If your senior dog takes any medications, please let your boarding facility know and provide detailed instructions on how to give them. It is also good to know exactly what health issue the medication is for. Let them know what time of day, how much they should be getting, how often, and if it needs to be paired with food or put in something like a pill pocket or peanut butter. Also let them know if your dog ever has difficulty taking their medication and what to do if they will not take it on their own. The IBPSA asks, “If your dog is on several medications or a complicated dosage schedule, a small chart or calendar showing the medication schedule may help staff to keep the treatments on time. Bring your insulin needles or other measuring devices for liquid medications to ensure that all measurements are the same as at home.”
Considering the Worst
Even with all of these precautions, sometimes the worst can still happen while you’re out of town. Your boarding facility will provide the best care possible for all dogs, including your senior dog, but they can’t work miracles. If your dog gets severely ill or even passes away, it is important for your boarding facility to know what you’d like them to do. Your Pet Space has a section in our boarding contract that explains, “if the pet becomes ill or if the state of the pet’s health otherwise requires professional attention, the Kennel may contact the client’s veterinarian and/or administer First Aid, medicine, Canine CPR, or give other requisite attention to the pet, and the expenses thereof shall be paid by Owner. In the event the Owner’s vet cannot be reached or time is of the essence in saving the pet’s life, the Owner agrees that the Kennel may take the pet to the nearest veterinary facility for emergency treatment.”
This being said, special arrangements can also be put in place. If requested, Your Pet Space can take your dog only to your vet, can ask for specific tests to be done, or they can forego doing any treatment whatsoever, allowing your dog to pass on naturally when they see fit. While it is a terrible thing to have to consider, it is the best for you, your senior dog, and your boarding facility to have a personalized plan developed if the circumstances become dire.
The Positive Side
Once you have gone through the detailed work of preparing your senior dog, yourself, and your facility for boarding or home care, it is equally important to remember that with all of the work and communication involved, things will probably go off without a hitch. There is always a chance that something could go wrong, even with younger dogs, but your boarding facility will take your advice to heart and they will do everything they can to ensure that your dog has the most relaxing, stress-free stay possible.
Jessica Smith, Associate Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two goldfish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org