I am starting to think about next year’s summer vacation. I know ... it seems (and is) a long way off, but my family is hoping to make it a big adventure. We’ve saved up some money, and I’m eager to experience a dramatically different culture with my soon to be six-year-old daughter. I’ve been poking around a variety of travel sites to see how far and how long we can go on our budget, which also has to cover the care of our animals while we're gone.

Of course, money’s not the only issue that I’m weighing when it comes to vacation pet care. I also want Apollo the dog and Vicky the cat to be safe and happy while we're gone, and there are a lot of options to choose from these days. My biggest problem is that Apollo and Vicky have diametrically opposed needs so I may have to arrange separate options for each of them.

In the past, we’ve always had a pet sitter come into our home and take care of all of our critters. This has definitely been the best option for our kitties, including Victoria, who is seriously adverse to change. I can’t imagine any other scenario that will work for her. The question is, what to do with Apollo?

Up until recently, all of our dogs were, shall we say, well-seasoned (okay, they were really, really old). Just like our cats, they preferred to stay at home. The "pups" definitely looked forward to the food and attention that accompanied our pet sitter’s visits but were more than happy to spend the remainder of the day lounging in a sunny spot in the back yard and occasionally barking at passers-by (they could get in and out of the house through their dog door).

Times have changed, however. Our current dog, Apollo, is a two year old boxer with LOTS of energy and a habit of finding inappropriate ways to entertain himself when he’s alone for extended periods of time. During our previous vacations, he has stayed at a local kennel and really enjoys himself there. He gets to spend time in the play yard with other dogs and has access to several fenced acres where he can run off leash.

The issue we have concerns his inflammatory bowel disease. Despite has caretakers’ best efforts, Apollo occasionally still picks up the stray kibble or piece of treat, which inevitably leads to a flare-up. I’d hate to put him on prednisone for the duration of our trip, but that’s probably what I’d have to do if we were gone for a long enough period of time.

Can Apollo stay at home with Victoria? I’ve looked into it. Our pet sitter could come in several times a day for meals, walks and attention, and she even offers a dog running service. In all honesty, she could probably get him more exercise than we do, but I’m still not sure how he’d handle the times in between. In a few years, when Apollo has matured a bit more, I have no doubt we’ll be back to using nothing but pet sitters, but for next summer... I’m still thinking about it.

What’s your experience with pet care arrangements?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: jamelah e. / via Flickr