FORT STEWART, GA -- Making sure everything goes smoothly when you drop your dog or cat off at Fort Stewart's Pet Boarding Facility comes down to a couple of simple things: plan ahead and preregister.

Planning ahead, said Susan Chipple, whose duties as Outdoor Recreation supervisor and recreation specialist include oversight of the pet facility is key to making sure that you secure one of the 24 spaces for dogs or 12 spaces for cats and that the boarding process goes without a hitch.

Preregistering is where any potential problems with registration can easily be headed off, she said. The preregistration process gives the facility staff and pet owners the opportunity to be sure everything is in order, to include required immunizations.

Shots required for canine guests are rabies, bordetella (kennel cough), and DA2PP (distemper, adenovirus2, parvovirus, parainfluenza).

Shots required for feline guests are rabies, RCP (rhinotracheitis, coronavirus, panlewkotenea) and FV (feline leukemia), which must have been administered within one year.

Capt. Daren Harrison, branch chief for Veterinary Services at Fort Stewart, said, "Distemper and Parvo, although much reduced in the population are still out there. In this (Fort Stewart) clinic, I see probably one to two dogs every couple of weeks that have Parvo. Distemper is still seen in animal shelters throughout the United States."

"Distemper and parvovirus can be fatal," Harrison said, "(vaccination) can eliminate the possibility of dogs contracting them at all. I'm sure most people would not want to take their dogs to a facility and potentially be exposed to either of those two diseases."

At the Fort Stewart pet lodging facility, it's a requirement for dogs to be immunized against bordetella (kennel cough) at least eight days before boarding, which sometimes hinders the registration process. Chipple said it is not required by health officials for stay-at-home pets, so pet owners often do not get the shot for their dog.

Harrison said bordetella, which he described as a "miserable disease," can easily be prevented with vaccination.

"The problem is it usually takes a few days before immunity is established with the vaccine," he said. "I kind of associate it (kennel cough) with whooping cough in a person. Generally, the dogs have this goose honk kind of cough, which is worse at night, so people are unable to sleep. I usually get calls at night because their dogs are driving them crazy."

Bordetella generally is not fatal, Harrison said, but it can lead to secondary infections or lead to secondary pneumonia, which can be fatal. That is usually rare, and most healthy animals are able to fight off the disease.

Chipple stressed the importance of planning ahead and preregistering to avoid any hitches in boarding your pet.

"If there's a holiday weekend coming up and a lot of people are planning to go out of town, you have to think about making sure you have called ahead and preregistered," she said, adding that the facility is getting a number of inquiries from Soldiers and their Families who are transferring to Fort Stewart.

"The easiest thing to do is to call ahead, make an appointment to come in; then come in and let the staff go over your pet's shot records," she said, adding that the facility will keep a copy of those shot records to assist pet owners with future visits.

The facility does not charge a deposit for a reservation at this time, she said, but that may change soon. Some customers do not show up with their pets or call to cancel their reservation, depriving other customers of that space, she said.

For more about the Pet Boarding Facility, go to