You are happily hiking with your dog when she suddenly yelps and goes down. You run over to find that your furry friend has a deep gash in her paw. What now? Accidents and illnesses can happen to your pet at any time. It’s more unnerving when it happens while you’re on the road RVing. How do you find a veterinarian for your pet when you’re RVing?
Here are some steps to take:
Home base vet
An important first step is to establish a relationship with a veterinarian in a location you visit at least once a year. (For people who are not full-timers, this will probably mean your hometown.) You’ll want to make sure that your “home base vet” works with online pharmacies. That way you can get ongoing prescriptions filled regardless of your location. It’s also a good idea to choose a “home base vet” who can be reached after clinic hours via an emergency number or one who is affiliated with a 24-hour clinic or animal hospital.
Ask your “home base vet” for a copy of your pet’s complete medical records, and plan to keep them with you as you travel. (Hint: Some RVers prefer to scan their pet’s medical records on a USB drive.) Should an emergency happen while you’re traveling, your “home base vet” should be your first call. This vet knows your pet and can quickly access and send your pet’s medical records to a vet in your area. Talking to someone you know and trust can also help keep you calm in an emergency.
Urgent care on the road
If your pet is older or has specific ongoing ailments, it’s important to know that a vet is available in the locations where you plan to travel. Even if you have a young, healthy pet who accompanies you on hikes and other adventures, there’s always the potential for accidents (rashes, bites, lacerations, accidental poisoning, etc.). Here’s what you can do to be prepared:
- Ask your “home base vet” for referrals in the areas where you will travel.
- Talk to other RVers in the campground for vets they may have used.
- Campground workers will be familiar with the area and may suggest vets or animal hospitals they trust.
- Search online for vets in the area. Pay special attention to the reviews and comments as you decide on help for your pet.
- You can also check with the state’s Veterinary Medical Association for a list of qualified veterinarians. Or search the American Animal Hospital Association to locate accredited veterinary practices.
- Check out other online sites like Go Pet Friendly or emergency pet hospital locator Emergency Vets USA.
- Many national pet chain stores (e.g., PetSmart) have in-house vets. Remember that these corporate veterinarians must follow stricter guidelines than an independent vet who may have greater latitude in treatment options.
- If you have a purebred pet, you can contact local breed clubs for vet recommendations. These vets may have more experience with your purebred breed.
You never know when a pet emergency will happen. Stock an emergency bag and keep it handy. Include:
- Pet’s health file (or USB) containing all pet records (checkups, vaccines, blood test results, etc.). Also include an accurate list of all current medications and supplements. Include dose amounts and time(s) administered.
- “Home base vet’s” contact information (phone, emergency number, email address).
- Muzzle or pet crate that your pet is used to using. Include a small blanket or piece of clothing with your scent. This may help to calm your pet, especially if you can’t accompany him/her into the exam room.
- Always ask for a complete report from the vet that treated your furry (or feathered or scaled) pet. This includes blood tests, vet’s diagnosis, and treatment plan (include complete information about any prescribed medications).
- Put the emergency treatment report (or updated USB) into your pet’s health file.
- If follow-up visits are recommended, be sure to make and keep the appointments.
- Check in with your “home base vet” to update your pet’s file and/or ask additional questions.