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What To Do If Your Pet Gets Sick While Traveling

Pets get sick. We hate to even think about it – but it’s part of our responsibility as pet parents. Illnesses or accidents that require a visit to the vet are hard enough when you’re home, but what about when you’re traveling?

Last year during a three-week road trip we had to make two visits to emergency veterinarians – one for each dog. With a little advanced planning we could have saved ourselves a lot of stress. We learned a lot, and hope these tips give you something to think about – but that you’ll never have to use them.

Ty and Buster in RAV4

Pack a good first aid kit. Whether you purchase one or assemble it yourself, you’ll have everything you need to deal with minor cuts, splinters, and stomach upset. Take some time to become familiar with the contents of the kit and with basic first aid procedures before you need to use them. There are some handy books and videos out there that walk you through the steps to help your pet in the most common emergency situations.

Take you pet’s medical records. In an emergency, remembering your name, much less the details of your pet’s medical history, will be a challenge. Before you leave, scan their medical records and store them on a USB or “thumb” drive. It’s easy to pack, and the attending veterinarian will be able to access the information they’ll need with no problem.

Take your veterinarian’s contact information and fax number. The attending veterinarian may want to call your vet with questions or fax reports and follow up instructions. Being able to provide them with the contact information will allow them to focus their attention on your pet’s care.

Pack a muzzle and have your pet accustomed to wearing it. Some emergency veterinary hospitals will not allow you to accompany your pet into the exam area. A dog in pain, in an unfamiliar setting, and surrounded by strangers, may react and “defend” himself. If it’s necessary to apply a muzzle for the safety of the staff, getting your pet used to wearing it in advance will help reduce their stress.

Use the GoPetFriendly.com Road Trip Planner to map your route and locate veterinarians along the way. This step will save time when every minute counts. GoPetFriendly is a place where pet lovers can help other pet lovers – so go to the site to make sure your vet is listed and write a review. You never know when your input could support a pet traveler in need.

GoPetFriendly Road Trip Planner

Locating Veterinarians on Road Trip Planner

Use your social network to get veterinary recommendations. Last year in Minneapolis Ty came down with a fever and was dehydrated. We reached out to our Twitter friends and within minutes got a recommendation for a local vet. The doctor was able to squeeze us in on a Saturday morning and the care we got was just fantastic.

Ask for a recommendation at a local pet supply store. I’ve never been a fan of picking a vet out of the phone book and putting Ty or Buster in their hands. I am more comfortable when I get a personal recommendation – even if I don’t know the person doing the recommending! Last year we were at a remote fishing camp in Ontario when Buster got an eye infection. We were an hour from civilization and had no Internet service. As we headed into the nearest town we saw a pet supply store and dashed in for some help. The clerk we spoke to had pets herself and was able to recommended a vet just down the road who took great care of Buster – though we showed up without an appointment.

Ty Supporting his Big Brother

Ty Supporting his Big Brother

The emotions and stress of an emergency often make it difficult to think clearly. Putting the plan in place in advance will ensure you’re able to give your pets the best care possible. And, we hope it’s kind of like grabbing an umbrella on a day with a chance of showers – if you take it, it won’t rain for sure!

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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Comment Archive

Amy@GoPetFriendly Jul 28, 2011 at 4:03 am
Thanks Mel. I agree, there are no gorgeous photos or descriptions of quaint places - it's definitely not as much fun as most of our other posts. But, having the dogs get sick while we were traveling was really stressful and I was hoping to help a few other people by passing on what we learned.
Melspetpals Jul 28, 2011 at 2:15 am
I can see where this might be overlooked. Not because it's not good, but because it's one of those serious topics people tend to avoid until they have to think about it - usually when they need it most. Very good advice. I hope people notice it this time around. 
My 7 Links Jul 27, 2011 at 10:02 am
[...] situations you face when traveling with your pet. Should you ever need it, a quick read through What To Dog If Your Pet Gets Sick While Traveling and a few minutes getting prepared will make all the [...]
Ruby's Raiser Nov 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm
Great, great tips! I would not have thought to keep the records on a thumb drive, but that is exactly what I will do going forward. You're absolutely right -- the less you have to think about during an emergency, the better!
Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 11, 2010 at 6:59 pm
Thank you, Anil. It's our pride and joy - and we're still adding features! Give us a couple of weeks and it will be even better.
Anil Nov 11, 2010 at 1:24 pm
The Road Trip Planner is the coolest thing ever - incredibly useful.
Lori @ According to Gus Nov 9, 2010 at 3:02 am
Thanks for this post. We'll be traveling with Gus for about 4 months next year, and the first aid and book Amazon links are helpful! We've already started compiling data and info, but I sure hope we never need to use it!
Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm
I wish I knew the rationale, Deborah! On the many occasions we've had to go to Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital (one of the best in the country) we've always had to stay in the waiting room while the dogs were examined. I guessed it was because they didn't want hysterical pet owners distracting them, but it could also have to do with being in the way, or even liability protection. The treatment has always been excellent, but it's much more stressful for the dogs and me!

A few years ago I found another very good emergency vet about 30 minutes away (also affiliated with Penn) that I like much better. We took Buster there last year when he was reacting to phenobarbital and they were wonderful - they let us say with him during the exam and told us we could come visit him whenever we wanted. They even disconnected his IV and let us take him out of the hospital to snuggle up with him in the back of our car. They made it a lot easier for us all to get through his 3 day stay. I've written a stellar review for them on GoPetFriendly.com.

It's good we talk about these things - if staying with their dog is important to people, at least they'll know to ask that question on the phone before making a decision on which hospital to go to!
Deborah Flick Nov 8, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Thank you for this informative post. I meant to ask you about just this topic during BlogPaws and, well, time sped away from me. These are great tips. And, I had no idea that some clinics won't let you accompany your dog during the exam. Just the thought of that makes me queasy.Do you know what the rationale is for that?
Peggy Frezon Nov 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm
That's a great service to help locate the local veterinarians. And good idea about bringing a first aid kit along when you travel. Thanks.
Sue Nov 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm
It was a very quick circle around her muzzle. And thanks, she is a real trooper and is in her 3rd week of recovery. She will do great. I hope there is never a next time but if there is I vow to be more prepared.
Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm
I hope she was okay, Sue. I'm sure the vet knew how to apply tape so that your dog could still breathe, but I don't think I'd want to try that!
Sue Nov 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm
I had to make an trip to an emergency vet and instead of using a muzzle, they put some tape around my dog's nose. She was hit by a car and had a broken leg, she didn't mind the tape because she had bigger worries.
Karen Friesecke Nov 8, 2010 at 5:20 pm
I don't like muzzling dogs at the vets, either. But It's all for the best since nobody wants a bite. I had to do that with my Mom's pitbull, H.O. He had split one of his nails and the vet had to trim it back a lot. It wasn't the most fun for him and it was painful, but everything worked out safely in the end :)
Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm
The first time I had to muzzle Ty in a vet's office I felt awful, but I was glad they brought him out to me and let me put it on him. Also, I should have mentioned that having a basket-type muzzle is really best. It doesn't limit how far they can open their mouth, so their breathing is not hindered and they can still pant.
Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm
Hi Jill! I hope the follow-up went well. I really like the suggestion of checking Yelp for reviews in a pinch.

Here is a link to a pretty good book on pet first aid: http://www.amazon.com/First-Companion-Dogs-Cats-Prevention/dp/1579543650/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1289191392&sr=8-4

If anyone else has other suggestions, please leave a note in the comments!
Michele Nov 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Good tips--especially the muzzle. I used to hate seeing dogs with muzzles, but sometimes--as you stated--it is so important for the dog who is in pain.
Jill Richards Nov 8, 2010 at 2:58 pm
Great post, Rod and Amy. You've got some great information here. We are headed to a vet this morning in Mandeville, LA for a follow-up. This is the second time this year we've had to see a vet while on the road. We've lucked out, thanks to Yelp and online reviews. Carrying Jack and Isabel's medical records was a must. Each vet has thanked us for having all their information handy.

My only regret is not researching a good book for basic pet care and first-aid. Any suggestions?
Amy@GoPetFriendly Nov 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm
You're welcome, Maggie! I hope you guys have a great trip.
Maggie Nov 8, 2010 at 2:19 pm
These are really great tips! We're getting ready to drive with the boys from southern Indiana to Washington, DC, so this is perfect timing. I'm definitely going to scan all their important paperwork and put them on a thumb drive! Thanks for such a useful post!
Sue Nov 8, 2010 at 2:49 pm
Great advice. We just had an experience were our dog was hit by a car when we were out of town, and we learned many lessons through that whole event. I wrote on my blog about how to go about finding an emergency animal hospital. As you said in your post, just putting your pet into the hands of a stranger isn't something you want to do. You can read about it here - http://irondoggy.com/