By now, many of you know I (Dr. Perry Jameson) have a full house of pets, with two dogs, five cats and two fish presently.

So my wife (Dr. Holly Mims) and I know how stressful it can be coming up with a plan on what to do when we go away. They are part of our family and we want to make sure nothing happens to them and that they have a stress free time while we vacation.

With trips to see family over the next 2 months of holidays, many of us will have to make plans.

How your pets are taken care of when you are away for several days depends on the animals you have and your individual home.

For instance, some cats can be left alone for two to three days with food, water and litter available. Dogs, on the other hand, at the very least need to be checked on two to three times a day.

There are four main options of how to take care of our pets when leaving home: You can take them with you; leave them home alone; leave them home and have someone come and check on them at your home; or place them in a boarding kennel.

When taking pets with you, the most important fact to know prior to arrival is that they are welcome. Make sure the people you are visiting are OK with your three dogs staying in their home over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Not all hotels are pet friendly either, so check in advance.

We do not recommend leaving dogs home alone, only cats, and only for two to three days at most.

As a bachelor, I had four cats and no dogs. Over long weekends, they did great as long as I left out food, water, and plenty of clean litter. Any time I was away for more than three nights, I would have someone check on them once a day. This is obvious, but only healthy cats can be left alone. Those with medical problems or receiving medications should not be.

Now with our two dogs, we have someone come to the house. For long weekends, they come by two to three times a day to let the dogs go outside and to feed everyone. For any absence longer that this, we prefer that someone stays with our pets.

Dr. Mims prints out detailed instructions. She is specific as to how much each pet gets to eat and where they should be fed. The instructions are detailed as to how much and when any medications should be given.

Contact information is provided as to how they can get hold of us or whom to call locally in case of an emergency. This local contact should be given authority to make life or death decisions for you, so they must be someone you trust and know well.

We always have the person taking care of the pets visit prior to the first time. A great time is at feeding so they can see how this is done. If staying at your home and they have their own pets, this is a good time to insure everyone gets along.

Boarding your pets, especially dogs, is another great option. These facilities are designed to cater to the pet away from home.

It is a good idea to visit the kennel prior to dropping your dog off on the way out of town. Make sure you are comfortable with where your dog is staying and think they will be, too.

Kennels for pets vary just like hotels for people, so find the one that matches your dog. Some offer TVs and sofas for the inside dog while others offer a lot of time outside.

Many kennels now offer doggy day care where your pet can stay for the day while you are at work. This is a great way to try out a facility first.

Prior to boarding, you need to make sure your pet meets the facilities health requirements. These are in place to make sure your pet is healthy enough to stay with them and to make sure all pets staying there do not have any contagious diseases.

Most require up-to-date vaccinations and a recent kennel cough vaccine. Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease in dogs.

Like colds for us, it spreads easily when in close quarters. The vaccines do not last a year, so they usually want it to have been given within the past 6 months.

The same detailed information you leave at home for the pet sitter should be given to the boarding kennel. In case of a medical emergency, your pet is best seen by its regular veterinarian who knows them rather than someone new.

With the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to make plans for your pets. This will reduce stress and make it the most wonderful time of the year for you and them.

Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. To send questions, go to and click the “ask the pet docs” icon.