Howard County Pets: Is dog day care healthy?

February 01, 2011|By David Tayman, D.V.M

Q: We’re thinking of taking our active, friendly dog to doggie day care a couple of days a week. Are there any health issues we should be concerned about?

A: For many dogs, a day or two each week spent at a well-run, clean dog day care center can be a great idea and great fun. Benefits include socialization and exhaustion: they get to play with pooch pals all day long, and come home so tired that they fall asleep on the car ride home — and may sleep the whole next day, too. And you’ll get a little break from tending to your dog during day care hours.

But you’ve asked an excellent question. Think of dog day care as something like sending human kids to school or camp, where they’ll be exposed to all kinds of bugs and bacteria which could make them sick. As with children, any place where dogs are grouped together provides the perfect opportunity for inadvertent sharing of infectious organisms.

Before your dog goes to a boarding kennel or day care, check with your vet and make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations for canine distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, canine parainfluenza and corona virus (all of which are usually given in a combination DHPPC vaccination, plus bordetella (kennel cough),  influenza,  and rabies.  When you sign your dog up for his day care visits, you’ll likely be required to produce proof of these vaccinations according to a required schedule, and to sign a release form.

There are several reputable dog day care centers in Howard County. Before choosing, ask neighbors if they’ve used one and what their experiences have been. Your animal hospital may also be able to suggest places worth consideration. Once you’ve got a few possibilities, you can take virtual visits first via their websites. If you like what you see, stop by in person to check them out and ask questions. Take a look at all the areas where the dogs spend time, and confirm that the facility looks and smells clean. Observe how staff members interact with the dogs — both people and pooches should seem like they’re having a good time. When you find a day care center that inspires confidence and the price is right, give it a try.
Q: We’re thinking of getting a first pet for our kids. Any tips and advice?

A: First, please don’t get a pet on impulse! A good starting point is a family discussion including the kids.

If they have their hearts set on a particular kind of animal, consult with a veterinarian, use the Internet, books and DVDs for family research so everyone knows what you’re getting into.

Consider your children’s ages, interests, maturity, allergies, past experiences with different kinds of animals (good or scary), and their ability and willingness to care for a pet. And don’t discount parental participation. Not only will you be reminding your kids to clean a cage or walk a dog, but think about whether this pet will still be around when the kids become interested in other things or go off  to college, leaving the care to Mom and Dad. And make the expenses fit the family budget.

There are so many types of pets and, obviously, some require more care than others. Once you’ve done your research, you and your kids can make a list of pet-care tasks and draw up a “contract” of their responsibilities. Realistically, though, be prepared for some renegotiation once the reality of having a pet sets in. And Mom and Dad should be ready to pick up the slack as needed so pets aren’t neglected.

With a little homework and thoughtful preparation, there’s no reason why adding a pet to the family can’t turn out to be an enjoyable experience for everyone.  

David Tayman, D.V.M., has practiced veterinary medicine in Howard County since 1974. E-mail questions to Dr. Tayman at

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