Handling Pet Care & Emergencies On The Road
My last post on Taggart generated A LOT of comments (THANK YOU for all your kind thoughts & support) and just proves how many pet-lovers we have reading the blog. Clearly we’re not the only paw-crazy people out there!
It also got me thinking about the whole topic of pet care on the road. In the past I’ve written detailed posts about how to travel with cats, and also brief posts about handling pet emergencies (and even how to handle a flea-infestation) on the road, but I’ve never really written an in-depth post about general pet care.
Just like human health care, nomadic pet care can take some figuring out, and when you first get on the road it might seem rather overwhelming. You’re away from your home vet & constantly traveling, so how do you figure it all out? But like all things in life a little prep work and a few bits of know-how can make the whole process a lot easier. So, I figured this would be a good time to write a more extensive post with my top tips on the topic. Here goes….
Note/ Non-paw-inclined folks can skip this post completely. I promise I’ll get back to more regular RV stuff in my next post.
Before You Get On The Road
If you’re not RVing yet, there’s a few things I’d recommend looking at before you even get on the road. You can look at these later too, of course, but I think they’re basic items that every pet owner should consider.
Get Pet Tags & Consider Micro-chipping– Everyone who travels with pets should consider getting pet tags with name and contact info. Lots of places to buy these, either on-line or at your local pet-shop. They cost less than $10, link onto your pets’ collar and can be a life-saver if your pet gets lost or runs away. Another thing to consider is micro-chipping. Micro-chips are not fool-proof (not all places have scanners), but shelters and vet hospitals will usually scan for a chip when a lost pet comes in, and if your pet has lost his/her tag this can be another life-saver. If you go this route make sure your chip is registered & your online database info is up to date. Read more about micro-chipping HERE.
Create A Pet File – Another thing I recommend is to go to your existing vet and get a copy of all the latest bloodwork and any vaccination history. Then scan those somewhere you can always access them online (e.g. on Dropbox) and/or create yourself a pet file. This will be incredibly handy when you need to see other vets on the road or you have an emergency. Plus if you decide to travel cross-border to Canada or Mexico you’ll need that vax info for the border crossing too (specifically Rabies). We have a file for all 3 pets and I always ask for print-outs of bloodwork & any diagnostic work done at every vet we go to.
Put Together A Simple Pet Emergency Kit – Every pet owner should have a basic set of stuff in their RV for simple emergencies such as cuts, allergic reactions (e.g. stings) etc. We always carry the following, at a minimum:
- Tweezers (e.g. to remove ticks or cactus thorns). We carry these with us when we hike too.
- Disinfectant (I like Betadine or Bactine, since they don’t sting)
- Gauze/tape (to wrap injuries)
- Epsom salts (for swelling)
- Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting, if needed)
- Benadryl (for allergic reactions or stings)
- Re-hydrating salts (unflavored Pedialyte is great)
- Sterile saline (for eyes)
- Digital thermometer
We also carry a few natural remedies such as:
- Slippery Elm Bark – for nausea and general, minor stomach distress.
- Bach’s Rescue Remedy – Flower remedy to help calm pets (and humans) in traumatic & stressful circumstance. Doesn’t work on everyone, but works great on my stress-sensitive cat Rand. We also carry Feliway for this same reason.
- D-Mannose Powder – for e-coli urinary tract infections.
There is lots you can do w/ these simple things, even if you are nowhere close to a vet, and as a bonus all the items work for humans too! For a more detailed pet emergency list read THIS article.
Get A Good Pet Carrier – If you have pets you probably already have carriers, but for RV travel I really value soft carriers simply for their “squashability”. We’ve had the same Sherpa Travel Bag for our cats for over 12 years and love the fact that we can squash them down and store them in a plastic bin downstairs. They don’t take up much space and they’re always easily accessible. Plus, they’re approved for airline carry-on travel (if you should ever need that).
Finding Emergency Care
When you’re checking-in to an RV park (this includes Public Parks like State Parks, COE, National Parks etc.) two easy questions to ask are “where is the nearest emergency clinic and “where is the nearest vet clinic”. They’re good things to know both for yourself and your pets, and if you remember to ask at check-in you’ll always have the info on-hand when you need it. Plus, knowing this ahead of time will give you a chance to look-up clinic reviews and check their ratings online.
Outside of asking (or if you’re boondocking, say) Google is your friend. If something serious happens to your pet and you need to get to a clinic right away, simply Google “24 Hour Emergency Vet” and go there! It’s not going to be cheap, but it’ll get you where you need to go.
Handling Regular/Routine Care
I actually think finding regular (routine) pet care on the road is waaay easier than finding human care (doctors), but I can’t deny that it can still take some effort.
Keep A “Home” Vet – If you have an existing vet that you love and you’re able to keep in contact with them on the road, then definitely do so! Just like many RV folks go back to a home-base every year for doctor visits, you can do the very same thing for your pets. If your pet takes meds, many vets are willing to update prescriptions remotely and with online pet pharmacies so easily available you can get those prescriptions sent anywhere you go. Some vets offer phone consultations too, plus they are usually happy to coordinate with other clinics. Don’t assume you have to say goodbye to your beloved vet when you go RVing!
Join A Nationwide Care Network – We learned about Banfield from our buddies Technomadia a few years ago. Since then we’ve had both our cats on a $30/mo Preventative Care Plan that covers their regular 6-mo health checks and basic stuff** like vaccinations, annual teeth cleaning etc. What I love is how “centralized” the whole thing is (I honestly wish I had something like this for myself). They have over 900 hospitals cross-country, all tests/visits are accessible online and the full kitty file automatically transfers to whichever clinic we decide to go to. Last November both kitties had their annual teeth cleanings done at Banfield in Palm Springs, CA and we just completed their 6-mo checkup appointment at Banfield in Portland, CA. Easy, peasy.
**NOTE/ Although I really like the Banfield concept I’m also very conscious of their limits. They are not specialized clinics and cannot handle major stuff like cancer or I-131 treatment, for example. Also their preventative health plans are very specific in what they offer, so if you need something beyond the norm you’ve got to ask for it. For example the kitty plan that we’re on includes complete CBC & chemistry bloodwork every 6 months, but they don’t test T4 levels, so that’s something I specifically had to ask for when I went in last week with Taggart. Always be aware of the limits of ANY care plan you sign up for.
Consider Cheaper Clinics If You’re Cash-Strapped – If you don’t have the $$ to go to a regular vet there are many places to get cheaper options for routine care especially if you’re just looking to keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations and such:
- Local Rescues -> One of the best places to start looking for inexpensive pet care is the local town rescue. Many animal welfare organizations, rescue groups and shelters offer low-cost vaccinations, spay and neuter, and other routine care at very affordable prices. And if the rescue don’t offer it, they most definitely know who does!
- Pet Wellness Packages -> There are lots of places that offer basic wellness packages for your pets at very affordable prices. For example, VetCo (the “vet” arm of Petco) offers a “Healthy Dog Plus” package that includes all your pet vaccinations, heartworm test, dewormer etc. for under $80. For small $$ you can add-on micro-chipping ($15) & rabies ($19) too. Sometimes regular vets offices will offer deals like this as well, so it’s always worth checking if there is a “special” going on as you’re traveling thro’.
- Country Vets -> Many “country” vets (= vets in smaller towns) typically have much cheaper fees than “big town” vets and will offer inexpensive vaccinations too. So, just getting out of the big city can sometimes bring your costs waaay down. We’ve seen 3x difference in vet pricing between city and country vets in our travels, even just for basic visits!
Locating Specialists For Specialty Care
If I ever get a serious (non-emergency) medical issue you bet your butt we’ll be seeking out the best treatment places cross-country, and it’s really no different with our pets. One of the HUGE advantages of living in an RV is that we have wheels on our home, and although we typically use those wheels for traveling and seeing cool stuff, they can also be a real bonus for specialty healthcare both for ourselves & our pets.
Join A Support Group – One of first things I’ve done with ALL the pet issues we’ve had over the years is to join a support group. There are specialized groups (on places like Facebook, Yahoo Groups, IO Groups etc.) that support every pet condition you could imagine from general health to specific illnesses. Not only will these groups be able to answer detailed questions about your pets’ condition, but they’ll also be able to recommend the absolute best places to go for treatment. Support groups have been invaluable to me over the years!
Consider Vet Teaching Hospitals – For “major” stuff and specialized care, you can’t really go wrong with veterinary teaching hospitals (click HERE for a complete list). Not only do they typically have all the latest technology & equipment, but they tend to be up-to-date on all the latest research and are often more affordable than private clinics. I always consider them for specialty care, and wouldn’t hesitate to go to a vet university for things like surgery or cancer.
Read Research Papers – If you’re super-analytical and science-crazy like I am another thing you can do is look-up research papers. There are lots of resources for finding academic papers (e.g. see THIS LIST). Not all are free or provide you the full paper (many just offer an abstract), but they can give you great insight into the latest research on a given disease and (sometimes) even lead you to the the top locations to treat them. Many pet conditions (like hyperthyroidism, for example) have select individuals who are world-renowned for their specialty and whose names appear as 1st author on pretty much every paper out there. So tracking down those individuals and/or the clinics recommended by them can get you some of the absolute best care there is.
That wraps up most of the details I can think of. If you’ve got any ideas or thoughts to add, feel free to post in the comments below. Also I promise we’ll be back to regular (and less “heavy”) RV stuff in my next post.
Quick Taggart Update -> For those wondering, we’re over a week into her meds and she’s finally handling them well, eating well and (even) seems to be putting on a bit of weight. So I think, at least for the time being, we’ve found a balance (our 3-week blood test will tell more). Also, thanks to several support groups I’ve already tracked down the best I-131 clinics in the country and we’re starting to make plans for how/when we’ll get there if Taggart turns out to be a candidate. Wheelingit Summer Plan C is in progress….
Related Blog Posts:
- 5 Tips For RVing & Camping With Cats
- Pet Emergency On The Road
- Flea-Busting The RV – The Non-Toxic Way
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