Posted on August 19, 2012
On the Road Veterinary Emergencies
A recent survey was commissioned by Petplan Pet Insurance to determine the popularity of traveling with pets. Among the 3,300 responders, 70% reported that their pets accompany them on vacations. I’m not surprised by this whopping statistic- we are a society in love with our pets! The fact that so many people leave home with their four-legged family members in tow supports the notion that, sooner or later, a medical emergency will land many of these travelers in an unfamiliar veterinary setting.
While in the midst of an emergency with a pet, it is normal to feel distraught. Add to the mix a waiting room filled with other sick or injured animals, a new veterinarian (who may not look much older than 18) bustling from room to room, unfamiliar technical staff, and higher fees, and it just might be tempting to interrupt your vacation and head straight back to the home front.
Fear not. Here are some pointers for keeping your visits on foreign veterinary soil a bit more relaxed and productive for everyone involved:
- Travel with your pet’s medical records. Having access to this information can make all the difference in terms of enabling a veterinarian examining your pet for the very first time to expediently get to the heart of the matter. Sure, you or a staff member can call your family veterinary clinic to have records emailed or faxed, but what if it’s the middle of the night or the weekend? (And don’t forget about those time zone changes.) What, you don’t have a copy of your pet’s medical record? Time to change that! I invite you to take advantage of the free “Advocacy Aids” I have created. If there is no smart phone app for storage of your pet’s medical record, now’s the time to invent one! Be sure to include vaccination history, current medications and diet (you’d be surprised how many folks don’t know the brand name of what they are feeding), medical record notes pertaining to all major health issues, and results of all laboratory testing, X-rays, and ultrasound evaluations.
- If the emergency arises when your veterinary clinic at home is open for business, ask the doc examining your pet to call your family vet to check in. He or she may be able to provide some insights based on their history with your pet.
- Don’t assume you must make rushed decisions. Ask the emergency vfet which choices truly need to be made right away and if recommended therapies must happen immediately. For example, does your dog’s broken leg really need to be repaired in your current Texas location, or can a splint be applied for travel and pain medication administered until you reach your family vet in Florida?
- As you likely know, not all daytime veterinary practices and off-hour emergency hospitals are created equal. When you arrive at an unfamiliar facility, trust your gut just as you did when selecting your current family veterinarian and clinic. If your gut is telling you to get the heck out of Dodge, pay attention! Granted, depending on location, you may not always have a choice, but don’t deny yourself the opportunity to try again if more than one option exists. To learn more about evaluating veterinary health care providers, I encourage you to read, “Finding Dr. Wonderful and Your Mutt’s Mayo Clinic” in Speaking for Spot.
- Just because you are in an emergency situation does not mean you cannot educate yourself about your pet’s condition and make good choices. Ask a staff member for pertinent reading material. While you are hanging out in the waiting room, whip out your smart phone and do some Internet research (educate yourself in advance about surfing responsibly). Call a friend or relative who is not under the influence of adrenaline to serve as your sounding board.
- Take some deep breaths and monitor your own pulse rate! The last thing your sick little buddy needs is to feed off your anxiety.
Medical emergencies are never fun, particularly when you are on the road. When the need for veterinary care arises during your travel, step up to the plate as your pet’s medical advocate just as you would in any other situation. You have the means to make a positive difference.
Have you ever experienced a veterinary medical emergency while on the road? What were you able to do to make a positive difference?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.