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home away from home: tips on picking the best kennel

  • Dr. Nina
  • Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on
    Staff Veterinarian and Underwriting Support of Petplan


This time of the year I get one question more than any other, “Can you recommend a kennel?”

With families going away for the holidays, there is always the question of whether to take pets along or leave them at home. And because it is very difficult to find a reliable house/pet sitter who has an opening, many people will opt to put their pet in a kennel while they are away.

Choosing a kennel is kind of like choosing a day care for your child – they aren’t one size fits all. Some are large, slick and professional, while others are smaller and homier. There is really no quick way to pick a kennel, unless you are more of a leap-of-faith type than I am! The best way to find a kennel that is a good match for you and your pet is to ask friends and neighbors for recommendations and then do some investigating on your own. By all means, ask your veterinarian as well, but often we are hesitant to make a recommendation if we haven’t actually been to the kennel ourselves.

Once you’ve gotten a few leads, you should call and visit each kennel on your list. Consider your pet’s needs; is he a wild and crazy ball-obsessed Lab, or is she a middle-aged snuggle-bunny Bichon? These dogs may do better at different types of kennels. You will want to ask questions about exercise policies and playtime, as well as time that the animals get individual attention. Make an appointment to visit without your pet, and cross the facility off your list if they don’t allow it. Below are a few steps to take to help you choose the best kennel for your pet:

  • Ask for a tour so that you can see the facility yourself. 
  • Check out the size of the runs (the area where individual animals are kept) and ask to see the size that your pet will occupy.  Look for cleanliness and safety.  Make sure that you can see that food is secured and labeled well. 
  • Ask to see the measures the kennel takes to prevent escapes, and then ask what happens if – God forbid- a pet does manage to get free. 
  • Ask how often the cages or runs are cleaned and whether or not they are disinfected between pets. 
  • Make sure they have a protocol in place for emergency illnesses or injuries. Some kennels will call your veterinarian, while others will only use a veterinarian of their choosing. Either way is acceptable as long as you are comfortable with it and they have a system in place in case an emergency occurs. 
  • Ask how they handle stressed animals that may bark, whine or howl for long periods of time.
  • Ask if you can call in for an update while you are away;some kennels now have 24 hour web cams so you can see your pet anytime you want!

Most kennels have a strict vaccine policy. While this may be annoying if you have waited until the last minute, it is actually a good thing that shows they are aware of – and trying to prevent – infectious disease outbreaks.

Finally – trust your gut. You need to feel comfortable leaving your pet in a kennel, and you need to trust the people you choose for her care. 

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
vet tip of the week

Visit your vet at least once a year to keep your pet protected from preventable diseases.