Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

Vacation Boarding for your Pets

Older golden retriever laying in the grassFor many of us, the long, cold January days are when we start to daydream about taking a vacation somewhere warm and sunny to escape the winter blahs. Or maybe a winter ski getaway is more your style. As exciting as it is to plan a vacation, regardless of the type of trip you take, one thing you must consider are your pets. Are they able to come with you? Depending on your destination, they may be, but if not, who will look after them? We can’t leave our pets to fend for themselves while we go off exploring the world, so there are some things to take into consideration regarding your pet’s care when planning a vacation.

If you have a reliable family member or friend that knows your pet and their routines well and can provide trustworthy care for them either in your home or theirs, that’s great! Professional pet sitter services also exist as an option. Another option many pet parents turn to is professional boarding kennels. Like any parent that has looked for reliable, trustworthy daycare for a human child, leaving your fur-baby in the hands of strangers can be a nerve-wracking experience, but there are ways to make the process easier.

Do your research. Ask friends and family members with pets, trainers, or breeders for boarding kennel recommendations. Read online reviews of potential kennels. Sometimes local communities will even give out ‘best-of’ awards that may include local kennels and boarding facilities. Do your best to see what facilities are available in your area, and where the people you trust board their pets when they are away. Many veterinarians also offer boarding at their hospitals or clinics, so check with your local vet to see if that may also be an option. Look for accreditations and association to memberships that require a certain level of conformity to standards, and check to see if your potential kennel has certificates or licenses showing they meet municipal or organizational standards.

Go for a visit. Before entrusting your pet to just any boarding kennel, make sure you go for a visit to see the facilities for yourself and make a decision. Trust your instincts, as well as common sense, and make a determination about a kennel based on what you see and how other animals boarding there are acting. Ask to see the whole kennel, including accommodation areas, exercise areas, and dog runs. These areas should be clean, orderly and in good repair, with no offensive odors, adequate ventilation, lighting, and temperature control. Sufficient security measures should be in place. Evaluate whether the staff seem competent, knowledgeable, and caring of the animals there.

Ask questions. Question the operating staff about everything, such as their feeding routines, accommodations, socialization, exercise, cleaning and sanitation practices, security, staff training and qualifications, if veterinary services are available, as well as grooming or bathing services. How much do they charge, and what does that fee include? It is important to understand how a boarding facility operates, what you are paying for, and what you can expect your pet’s days to look like while there, in order to determine if it is the right place for your pet to stay. There is a wide range in the types of accommodations and services a kennel may offer, so it is important to make sure that it is a good fit for your pet and their accustomed lifestyle. A small, pampered pooch may not be well suited to an outdoor kennel geared towards larger, active dogs, and may require boarding at a more ‘luxurious’ and attentive kennel.

Make reservations early. Many boarding kennels will book up early during holiday seasons and peak vacation times. To ensure you get a space at your preferred kennel, make your reservations as early as you can.

Have a trial run. If it’s your pets first time being boarded consider having them go for shorter overnight stays before the extended vacation. When they realize you always come back for them, it can help to alleviate any ‘separation anxiety’ they may feel, and get them used to the new surroundings and caregivers.

Visit the vet. It’s a good idea to see your vet for a well-visit to make sure your pet is in tip-top shape before staying at a boarding kennel. Your pet may need to have a vaccine boosters administered, depending on what your pet has been vaccinated for and what the specific kennel requires. There are some communicable diseases, such as gastrointestinal viruses and contagious coughs, which tend to occur more frequently in kennel situations where many animals are in close quarters. There are vaccines available for many of these diseases, but your pet may not have been previously vaccinated for them depending on their risk factors. Some kennels may require certain vaccinations and may also require your pet to be on flea and/or tick preventives, so a discussion with your vet about your best options for your pet’s health requirements may be in order. Any vaccinations or new preventives should be done a few weeks before your pet’s scheduled stay, to avoid adverse reactions at the kennel and provide adequate protection.

Be prepared. Make sure you prepare clear documentation on medications and dosage instructions, food and feeding instructions, emergency contact information, your veterinarian’s contact information, special issues and anything else the boarding kennel may need to know about. Fill out all forms provided to you as fully and completely as possible.

Pack your pet’s bags. Make sure your pet is wearing their proper identification tags. Pack their food if you are sending it, medications and/or supplements, their personal food and water bowls if necessary, favorite toys, blankets or bedding, any essential grooming tools like brushes or combs, and their leash and harness. Many kennels provide some or all of these things, but your pet may be more at ease with familiar objects around them.

Keep the goodbyes short and sweet. Animals pick up on human emotions, and if any of your family members indulge in an overly-emotional farewell, your pets will pick up on those emotions and may become overly anxious about the whole process, thinking there is a reason to be upset. If you are calm during the drop off process, they will likely be calm as well when you leave.

Remember, your pet may enjoy and appreciate a vacation in new surroundings with new friends just as much as you do! Once they get accustomed to their new surroundings, they are often like excited kids at summer camp, running around with their new friends. As long as you take the time to make sure your chosen boarding facility is a good fit for your pet and they type of care they are accustomed to, your pet will hopefully have an enjoyable time on their own ‘vacation’ and come back home just as relaxed and happy as you!


Why We Are Your Best Choice

  • Fully Equipped and Prepared for Your Pet's Needs

    Our hospital is a 6,000 sq ft facility with a large kennel, grooming room, treatment area, and more to best serve our patients.

  • High-Quality Care Tailored to Each Patient

    We value the human-animal bond and strive to provide premium, loving care for your pet's unique needs.

  • Monthly Continuing Education for All Staff Members

    We believe that education is the key to preventing illness and shortening the recovery time for your pet's ailments.

Don't Delay

Contact Us Today!
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.

Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
  • Dr. Mitchell  Meyerhoeffer Photo
    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
  • Beth   Photo

    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
  • Becca   Photo

    Veterinary Assistant

    Profile coming soon!
  • Mary   Photo

    Treatment Team Lead

    Profile coming soon!
  • C

    Veterinary Assistant

    Bio Coming Soon!
  • Z

    Veterinary Assistant

    Bio Coming Soon!
  • Felicia   Photo

    Kennel Care Team Lead

    Profile coming soon!
  • Alex   Photo

    Kennel Care Team

    Profile coming soon!
  • Laiya   Photo

    Kennel Care Team

    Bio Coming Soon!
  • Brittany   Photo

    Kennel Care Team

    Profile coming soon!
  • Aidan   Photo

    Professional Groomer

    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
  • Tracy   Photo

    Practice Manager

    Profile coming soon!
  • Ricky   Photo

    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
  • Lucy   Photo

    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
  • Daisy & Duke   Photo
    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
  • Potato   Photo

    Grooming Manager

    Bio Coming Soon.
  • K


    Bio Coming Soon!
  • J


    Bio Coming Soon!
  • A


    Bio Coming Soon!
  • M

    Kennel Care Team

    Bio Coming Soon!