Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dog Vaccine Recommendations from AAHA

The American Animal Hospital Association no longer recommends that pets be vaccinated every year. I was surprised to read this. Here is a summary of their recommendations and a link to their web site :
The 2006 AAHA Vaccine Recommendation Guidelines say the following:
The guidelines designate four vaccines as core, or essential for every dog, because of the serious nature of the diseases and their widespread distribution. These are canine distemper virus (using a modified live virus or recombinant modified live virus vaccine), canine parvovirus (using a modified live virus vaccine), canine adenovirus-2 (using a modified live virus vaccine), and rabies (using a killed virus). 
The general recommendations for their administration (except rabies, for which you must follow local laws) are:
* Vaccinate puppies at 6–8 weeks, 9–11 weeks, and 12–14 weeks.
* Give an initial “adult” vaccination when the dog is older than 16 weeks; two doses, three to four weeks apart, are advised, but one dose is considered protective and acceptable.
* Give a booster shot when the dog is 1 year old.
* Give a subsequent booster shot every three years, unless there are risk factors that make it necessary to vaccinate more or less often.
Noncore vaccines should only be considered for those dogs who risk exposure to a particular disease because of geographic area, lifestyle, frequency of travel, or other issues. They include vaccines against distemper-measles virus, canine parainfluenza virus, leptospirosis, Bordetella bronchiseptica, and Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease).
Vaccines that are not generally recommended because the disease poses little risk to dogs or is easily treatable, or the vaccine has not been proven to be effective, are those against giardia, canine coronavirus, and canine adenovirus-1.
This is of interest to pet sitters and kennels because we will no longer be able to require that animals be "current" with yearly vaccinations. On the other hand, there are many health reasons not to over-vaccinate, and I think this is a step in the right direction. 

Don't think that parvo, distemper, rabies and other canine diseases aren't around any more. It is tragic that a parvo outbreak at a local animal shelter causes the entire population of dogs to be euthanized. Protect your dog, and share this information with your clients.  
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© 2010 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pet Vacations offers in home dog boarding

I recently interviewed Lynda Edwards of Bellevue, WA about her business, Pet Vacations. Founded in 1993 by her friend Monique Summers, Lynda took over the reins after serving as business manager for several years. When I lived in Seattle, I helped Monique develop her logo, brochure and public relations materials. I never dreamed I’d end up in the same business! It was fun to reconnect 17 years later and discover the business has grown and thrived.

Pet Vacations has a unique business model. A network of caretakers boards dogs, one at a time, in their homes. The business grew from 4 to the current 45 caretakers located throughout Puget Sound. Lynda estimates they handled 6,000 days of boarding in 2009. Her business also offers house sitting, where caretakers stay overnight in the owners’ home with the pets.

Lynda has two employees: A manager to run the day-to-day operation, and an accountant/bookkeeper, both part-time. Monique, the original owner, fills the accounting role while also working as a caretaker.

If you decide to expand to this extent, you will no longer be a hands-on pet sitter, you will spend most of your time running the business. It’s a big change, and you will be dealing with issues such as taxes, incorporation, insurance, personnel, software, and marketing– all the bells and whistles of big business–on a much larger scale than before.

Pet Vacations is incorporated as an S corp. Many similar businesses are incorporated as an LLC. Here is an article from SCORE on types of corporations. For more articles about starting your business, visit the SCORE website.

Many of Pet Vacations caretakers have been with the company for over 15 years. I asked Lynda how many days a year each caretaker works. She replied, “As many as they want.” Holidays and summertime are the busiest, and most caretakers need to make themselves available during these periods. The money is not enough to support a family, but it is a nice addition to the household income.

The list of caretakers includes people who work from their homes, are stay-at-home moms or retired. Lynda runs ads for caretakers on Craigslist, and also invites inquiries from her website. Each caregiver is an independent contractor and signs an agreement that clearly spells out the liabilities and responsibilities of each party. Lynda interviews the entire family during a home visit, to be sure everyone is enthusiastic about the arrangement, and that the family’s own pets will be receptive to guests. She also does a criminal background check on each caretaker.

What is the key to Pet Vacations’ success? Lynda states, “If one has a good product & a great concept, word of mouth will take over and reputation becomes everything. We have developed a fantastic one over the years.”

I’ll write more about how Pet Vacations operates in a future post.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Computerizing my pet care sheets and client contact information

I have been playing with several ways to put my pet sitting records on the computer. It’s time to graduate from a notebook full of handwritten sheets that aren’t even alphabetized. In the end I purchased the database program Bento for contact management.


I tried to set up my care sheets in Quickbooks, but it just wasn’t working. Each client record has several windows, and a lot of fields I don’t need and can’t delete. I can add fields and get all the information I need into the client pages, but couldn’t print it all at once on one sheet. I could only print the notes section separately. I didn’t find a way to structure a report to do this for me, though I am still exploring.

I can add my clients to my address book from Quickbooks, but it creates a new list, so there is a lot of duplication to sort out. I decided to use Quickbooks only for its original purpose: accounting. The Mac version of Quickbooks also has a bad reputation, so I hesitate to recommend it for Mac users. It costs $149, and you can download a one-month trial version.


I discovered Bento is for both the Mac and PC, and the Mac version is not a stepchild of the PC version. Only $49 from FileMaker, I was able to easily import contacts from my address book all at once and start adding information to each customer’s file. It is very easy to use and doesn’t require a long learning curve. You can download a trial version for one month. When I upgraded to purchasing the program, I didn’t have to start over – just entered my license key and continued working.

There is plenty of room to put all of the care and contact info on a single screen and print it out on a single page. I can add my own custom fields and get rid of ones I don’t want. I use theme backgrounds on the screen, but can print without all the “pretties.” Synch Bento with an iPhone or iPod Touch, iCal and other programs. I have yet to explore whether I can synch Bento with Quickbooks.

That would be a perfect world.

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© 2009 Terry Albert. All Rights Reserved.