As our dogs get older, we’re making more trips to the veterinarian. In fact, we’ve made nine visits just in the past year. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that we travel full-time in an RV, and we’re seldom in the same location for more than a couple of weeks at a time. Of course, some illnesses and injuries are more serious than others, and the way we go about finding a vet depends on how quickly we need to see them. Here are a few examples:
Vaccinations, annual exams, and other regularly scheduled treatments are visits that I consider “routine care.” These items need to be addressed in a timely manner, but don’t require immediate attention. For the first few years that we were on the road, we took our dogs back to Philadelphia to see the veterinarian they’d grown up with for these appointments. But as our travel plans began to vary, that arrangement wasn’t working anymore. We needed to locate a new “primary care” veterinarian, so I waited until we were staying in an area where friends lived, and I relied on their their recommendations.
We found ourselves in a similar situation earlier this year. For the past several years Ty and Buster’s annual exams were done by “our” veterinarian in Austin, where we parked for the winter. This year we decided not to go back to Austin, so during a visit with a good friend near Houston in March, we asked him about his vet. He gushed about how wonderful she was with his menagerie of animals, and that was good enough for us … we set up the boys up for annuals the following week.
Sometimes a routine vet visit uncovers a more complicated condition, and in this case it turned out that both boys needed more extensive procedures than we anticipated. While we waited on pins and needles, we took comfort in the fact that the doctor caring for them had come so highly recommended. And it turned out that our friend was right – the vet was fantastic And Ty and Buster are both doing great.
I would classify most of our visits to the veterinarian as “urgent care.” These are not life-threatening conditions, but ones that we want to have treated within 24 hours. The ulcer that developed on Buster’s cornea fell into this category, as did Ty’s urinary tract infection and the follow-up X-rays he needed to gauge the progress we were making against the discospondylitis in his spine.
The best recommendation you can get in this case is from YOUR veterinarian, so start with a call to your home vet to see if she knows anyone in the area you’re traveling. This will also put your vet on alert that your pet is ill, in case the treating veterinarian has questions, or would like to send a report.
Since we travel full-time, when urgent situations pop up we’re seldom in a place where we can get a recommendation from our vet, or from friends and family, so we rely on the advice of those around us. In these circumstances, my first stop is at the office of the RV park or campground where we’re staying. If the staff doesn’t have animals themselves, they’ve usually spoken to a guest who’s seen a local veterinarian and can point me in the right direction. With that information in hand, I do a search for veterinarians using the Google Maps app on my phone, focusing on the reviews people have written. If I find more than a couple negative reviews about a veterinary clinic or hospital online, I move on to another option.
I’ve also found our on-line community to be a fantastic place to turn for assistance. We’ve yet to be in a place where I’ve needed a recommendation for a veterinarian and not had someone respond with a suggestion.
Emergency care is self-explanatory. These are life-treatening situations, or ones that involve pain that needs to be resolved immediately. We’ve had our fair share of trips to the emergency vet hospital : once when an infection was causing Buster serious discomfort; once when we first discovered Ty’s discospondylitis; another time when Ty spiked a dangerous fever; and back in the early days when Buster had a serious reaction to phenobarbital, a medication he was taking to control seizures.
The emotions and stress of seeing your pet seriously ill or injured can make it difficult to think clearly, so putting a plan in place in before you need it is the best way to ensure you’ll be able to give your pets the best possible care. I start by using the GoPetFriendly.com website to locate the closest veterinary hospital to our location shortly after we arrive in a new place and make note of the address. In an emergency situation, my primary concern is the amount of time it would take to get the dogs care.
I also keep a small go-bag that we can grab if we’re running out in a hurry. In the bag I include:
We’ve also had the occasion to see a few veterinary specialists over the years with Ty and Buster. Most recently, we saw a veterinary neurologist for Ty’s discospondylitis, and a veterinary opthalmologist for Buster’s corneal ulcer. Recommendations for veterinary specialists can come from your treating veterinarian, but I found both of these docs by searching online. The specialists we saw required referrals from our treating veterinarian, which we received with no problem.
If you’re traveling full-time with your pets, I recommend asking for their complete file after every vet visit, including any blood work results and doctor’s notes. Scan this new information to the USB drive where you keep your pet’s medical records after each vet visit, and you’ll always have your pet’s most recent medical information right at your fingertips.
We hope this blog post is like an umbrella – if you have it with you, you’ll never need it! Waggin’ trails!