Dogs came home sick from kennel; now what?
July 11, 2010 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Our dogs came home from the kennel with gastric issues - that's a deal-breaker, right?

We boarded our two dogs for the first time at a kennel last week. I picked them up yesterday afternoon and the worker on duty mentioned, kind of offhandedly, that one of them had diarrhea. Turns out it was not the dog she IDed but in fact the second dog who has the diarrhea, and we were up every two hours overnight for outside visits. The other dog is passing gas that will peel paint off the walls.

I know the remedy (although if you have any suggestions, I'm happy to have them), but the question is: we're supposed to go out of town again at the end of the week; should I use a different kennel?

The place is out in the country and came recommended by a neighbor; it seemed to be clean but decidedly not antisceptic. Are these kinds of issues caused by hygiene, or nerves, or something else? Is it worth having a conversation with the kennel owner before we bolt? If so, what (rational) questions should I ask other than "what did you do to my babies?!"?

Any insight you've got would be really helpful.
posted by SashaPT to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My teenage daughter is a veterinarian assistant and she says this happens a lot; they think it's because the doggies are stressed. Lots of water and boiled rice and chicken when they get home and they're usually okay.
posted by dzaz at 5:46 AM on July 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

This happens a lot with any kenneling. Vet said it was stress. Our dog cleared up within a day or so of rice and boiled hamburger diet. Vet also mentioned that kennels are a lot like a child's daycare center - if something is going around, it's very easy for the population to catch it.
posted by jerseygirl at 5:56 AM on July 11, 2010

Thirding that it's just stress. Were they fed a different food than their usual diet? This can also cause gastric issues.
posted by cozenedindigo at 6:21 AM on July 11, 2010

My dogs have sometimes gotten diarrhea/vomiting merely from being fed a new kind of food (I now do a gradual transition when switching over). I believe most kennels will allow you to bring your own dog food. Maybe that, and some other ideas, like giving them familiar toys or a (disposable) article of your clothing with your scent on it, would help ease the stress.
posted by Pants McCracky at 6:36 AM on July 11, 2010

Yeah, at the boarding facility I used to work at there were several dogs who would come down with diabetes no matter what we did. You can try sending them with a bland diet designed for sensitive stomachs, or seeing if your vet (or the vet the kennel uses) will pre-medicate with metronidazole or something similar, but for some dogs there's no solution.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:09 AM on July 11, 2010

Some dogs just can't deal with being boarded away from home. Ours refuse to eat or drink while boarded and came home 20% under their normal body weights and severely dehydrated after 4 days in a kennel. We don't board them anymore, we get a pet sitter to come to our house and tend to them.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:12 AM on July 11, 2010

Seconding sending them with a bland diet because stressed dogs sometimes just do get upset stomachs. Mine do every time I leave them, even though sometimes they stay home with a petsitter and their normal food, sometimes stay with a family member they adore (still eating their own food). When I'm out of town I prepare a lot of rice and get my petsitter to give it with their meals.

If they were in a kennel I'd definitely be making sure they had lots of tummy protection: Pepcid (measured out by vet recommended doses), chicken and rice pre-cooked or the prescription bland cans, pepto bismal tablets sent along with them (again marked for vet-suggested dose) in case they did get upset stomachs. I'd probably also call my vet and see if they had any other suggestions.
posted by galadriel at 7:31 AM on July 11, 2010

The part that bothers me is the employee not ID'ing the right dog. That's a kind of carelessness that would Freak. Me. The. Fuck. Out. if it were my cats in there. You're looking after these animals and you can't even say which one is sick? How do you expect them to care for sick animals with this kind of lazy overview?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:45 AM on July 11, 2010

Another thing to consider is that the kennel almost certainly fed your dogs a different brand of food than you feed them at home. This can definitely cause gastric distress. I've been told on many occasions that, if you want to change your dog's food, you need to slowly move them over by stages and not all at once.

But yeah, the missed ID of the sick(er) dog is more telling than the squirties.

One question for you, do your dogs experience separation anxiety when you leave home or leave them anywhere? My dog does, for a little while and then she's all good but she's not any fun to be around until her I-miss-you timer goes off.
posted by fenriq at 9:13 AM on July 11, 2010

The dog I had growing up would get terrible diarrhea from going to the groomer for a half a day. It was stress. He did not like to be away from home/without my family.
IDing the wrong dog could be more of a concern than the actual diarrhea, but it may not actually be that big of a deal. They probably knew which one was sick, but accidentally told you the wrong name.
posted by ishotjr at 9:15 AM on July 11, 2010

I manage a dog daycare and boarding facility. We don't even kennel the dogs, they're in supervised groups at night. This is a common occurrence, and it's always only the dogs that are stressed while they are with us. We recommend that owners bring the dogs' usual diet, as changing diet can wreak havoc on a dog's stomach. You can give a dog pepto bismal, a single tablet is fine for larger dogs, half for dogs under ~35lbs.

By "decidedly not antiseptic" do you mean it smelled? Because that's pretty much impossible to get rid of. We don't have that problem because it is much easier to clean a regular floor than individual kennels. I would ask to look at the kennels if they will let you; being visually clean is a great sign, but like I said, the smell is hard to remove so don't hold it against them.

Seconding L'Estrange that the frightening part is that they ID'd the wrong dog. Do your dogs look at all similar? I suppose this could happen, though our type of facility encourages bonding with the dogs so this would be incredibly strange; I can't speak for a typical kennel. I would bet that the girl up front was told by another staff member which dog was sick and mis-remembered. Still, not good, but certainly excusable.

My advice would be to look for a facility like ours that doesn't kennel the dogs. These are hard to come by in a lot of places, and they're much more expensive than a typical kennel. If you can't find one or it's out of your price range, an in-home pet sitter would be the way to go.

If you have any more specific questions feel free to MeMail me.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:19 AM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, also if you didn't bring their food, it was absolutely a combination of stress and being fed the kennel's food. Like I said, switching food on a dog will wreck their stomach (and your carpet).
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:21 AM on July 11, 2010

This is all really great - thanks so much to everyone who has weighed in. This was their first time away to "camp," and knowing this is normal and probably stress-related is a relief. (When we had just one dog, she stayed at home and a neighbor came over a couple times a day; with two, I feel they are too much for the neighbor to manage.)

I'm inclined to stay with the original kennel because I don't want to further confuse them by sending them away somewhere different so soon after the last trip, but I will have a chat with the owner this week to make sure it wasn't anything out-of-the ordinary and to see if there's anything we could do next time to make the transition easier. We did send their regular food this time, but will ask about the possibility of subbing or adding rice and bland meat.

I have to give the check-out girl a pass, because it turns out the second dog also has diarrhea too. She must have relied on her "brother" to do the waking-up last night. They seem to be doing better today after their rice and scrambled-egg breakfast.

(InsanePenguin, your comments are very helpful - thank you!)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:47 AM on July 11, 2010

Oops, sorry - I posted the question under one ID and responded with my other - didn't mean to confuse or sockpuppet.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:48 AM on July 11, 2010

One other item that's really good for tummy upset: cooked pumpkin. Just add some to whatever you are feeding. It helps calm the diarrhea.
posted by annsunny at 11:28 AM on July 11, 2010

If being away from home is really stressful, is it possible for you to find a house-sitter to stay in your home with them?
posted by radioamy at 11:32 AM on July 11, 2010

One of our dogs often comes home with diarrhea when he's boarded. He's a homebody and we always chalk it up to nerves.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:52 PM on July 11, 2010

I don't know if you supplied the vet with supplies of your dogs' regular food or if they happen to feed the same thing you do at home, but some dogs can't tolerate an abrupt change in food brands (or even flavors of the same brand). Some of the places I've boarded at have let me bring them in with a bag of their food (or simply asked what I fed and gave them that), and that has helped with the kennel runs.

Plain yogurt and canned pumpkin mixed in their normal food are my go-tos for calming the digestive system and adding fiber. (Be warned, this combo mixed in kibble smells both compelling and repulsive, it's weird.)
posted by Lyn Never at 3:33 PM on July 11, 2010

Whoops, "supplied the vet" should say "supplied the kennel".
posted by Lyn Never at 3:34 PM on July 11, 2010

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