Q. I'm launching a doggy day care program at my practice. What safety issues should I be aware of to protect pets and people?
When starting a doggy day care program, safety must be your primary concern—safety for your existing veterinary clients, your
new doggy day care clients, and your team, says Lori Tyler, LVT, BS, a certified dog trainer and manager of Lucky Dog Inn
and Cat Spa in Ithaca, N.Y.
"When choosing a location in the hospital, consider traffic patterns and patient flow," Tyler says. "Ideally you should avoid
areas where sick animals frequent or board."
Tyler says you also need to remember that even well-vaccinated, healthy looking pets can sometimes be sub-clinical carriers
for disease. Since you don't want to transmit disease to your veterinary clients, the ideal location for a day care facility
in a veterinary clinic is an easily sanitized area that's only used for healthy pets. Day care dogs must be up-to date-on
their vaccinations—generally rabies, Bordetella, and DHLPP vaccinations, Tyler says. Pets also need to be up-to-date on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention and follow a
regular deworming schedule.
"This is particularly important when you use areas with lawns or even gravel to exercise dogs," Tyler says. "Even if you pick
up feces immediately, there's still the opportunity for parasite eggs to enter the environment."
Before dogs are allowed to visit and play, Tyler says someone who's knowledgeable in dog behavior—especially in reading canine
body language—needs to screen dogs. The size of groups depends on the size of your facility and your staffing ability. Some
states, such as Colorado, have laws regulating the number of dogs per staff person.
Finally, Tyler says, remember that day care dogs need downtime to settle down between play sessions.
"A well-planned day care can provide a great service for clients," she says. "It helps clients see you as more than just a
place to visit when pets are ill. It's a fun place for pets to go."