Traveling is meant to be fun and exciting! When we add pets to our camping trips, the fun never stops. Unless that fun is interrupted by an emergency and you need pet care immediately. But what do you do when you are in a new or unfamiliar place with your pet and you need a veterinarian?
We’ve been in this situation many times during our five years of full-time travel. And we have learned what to do and what not to do when it comes to helping your pet.
By preparing right, you can soften the struggle of a pet emergency on the road. If you’re a Good Sam member, you may have some helpful travel tools already at your fingertips, like discounted pet health insurance and pet subscriptions. Explore Good Sam pet benefits.
Your pet’s records are your first line of defense when it comes to emergencies. Have all of your pet’s vet records, licenses, and test results on hand in case of emergencies. During an emergency, you may not have the time to look for papers. We keep physical copies of Brickle and Fruitycake’s records not only in our RV but in our vehicle and our backpack that we take on trails. We also keep a file of their records on our phones. These records can help a vet know how to care for your dog and be made aware of allergies and prior complications.
Important records to have on file:
- Vaccination records or titer test results
- Medication names and dosage amounts
- Heartworm test results
- Microchip information
- Your dog’s allergies
- Your primary veterinarian’s contact information
- Pet insurance plan information
Make a List
When our dog Digby started having frequent bouts of illness, it made us nervous to travel. We like to be spontaneous when picking camping destinations, but as our dogs got older, that changed. So just as we mapped out our routes, we started mapping out veterinarians in the areas we planned to travel to. I make a list of emergency clinics, vets, and even mobile vets. Looking at online reviews helps to have a first choice of who to call if you need to.
First Aid Kit
The fact is that, sometimes, you will be in a remote area and a vet may be miles away. A first aid kit can come in handy until you can reach a veterinarian. You can purchase a first aid kit pre-made or make one yourself. Some items to include:
- an extra leash and an extra collar
- non-stick bandages
- dog thermometer
- cotton balls
- hydrogen peroxide
- antibiotic spray for dogs
- tick tweezers
- emergency dog medications
What are some signs that your pet may need emergency care? Pale gums, rapid breathing, weak or rapid pulse, difficulty standing, seizures, or bleeding.
Learning how to properly help your pet with CPR is vital. Your quick actions could be the difference between life and death. Sign up for a class before hitting the road to know how to properly administer this lifesaving technique in case of an emergency.
Road Traffic Accidents
Travel means you are at risk for traffic accidents, flat tires, and more. If you are involved in an accident, make sure your pet is in the most secure and safe area. We always carry extra gallons of water and a quick set-up tent for shelter. We have been in areas like the desert that would have no shade if we broke down or had an accident and needed to vacate the vehicle. It never hurts to carry extra food, water, and blankets for your pets.
Virtual Vet Care
There are many veterinarians who provide vet care just a phone call or teleconference call away! While there is no substitute for in-person pet care, seeing a vet online can provide you with peace of mind and a plan of action until you can visit a vet. We have used online vet services for our dogs when they have had skin issues, minor injuries, and lumps and bumps. Just recently, our newly adopted dog Fruitycake was having skin issues. We were able to provide pictures of his skin and were given advice on over-the-counter medicines we could give to him while waiting for a vet appointment.
Apps that we love for the road:
- American Red Cross First Aid App For Pets
- American Animal Hospital Association
Be Flexible (if Possible)
Last month, our dog Peanut Butter Brickle needed vet care. He is 13 years old and a lump was growing fast on his neck. Although we had him seen by one vet in Tennessee who told us to watch and monitor the lump, we knew we needed him to be seen again. However, we were now in the Florida Keys. It took us two weeks to get an appointment. And by the time we were seen by the vet, it was another month before we could schedule surgery.
This was stressful because it is hard finding reservations in this area. So we had to have a Plan B and a Plan C. We called vets in areas we could get camping reservations, asked around, and read reviews. Where we found a vet to do the surgery in a timely manner was where we made our reservations. If you are a full-time traveler you may run into this problem. We should have made future appointments for checkups instead of waiting until we were in an emergency situation.
Designate an Alternate Caregiver for Your Pet
Not being with our pets is something we don’t want to think about, but our family consists of full-time travelers. There is a risk that both of us could be injured together and unable to make decisions for our dogs. Before we embarked on that first mile, we designated an alternate caregiver for our dogs in case we were unable to care for them. When we plan our trips, we always let our alternate caregivers know our destinations. Make sure to consult with a lawyer to make your wishes legally acceptable.
Poison and Plant Risks for Dogs
One of my favorite parts of travel is learning about the local wildlife, plants, and trees. But we have to remember that not all plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables are safe for dogs. There is an added risk when traveling with our pets because many times, we ourselves are unfamiliar with the identification of potential hazards. The ASPCA website is a great reference tool for us when checking the toxicity of certain plants and foods for dogs.
When in doubt, get it out of your pet’s mouth! In the case of an emergency, you can also call the Pet Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435.
Not all emergencies require a vet visit. We have found ourselves at risk of a tornado, hurricane, fire, and other weather emergencies. When you are in an RV, you have to know where you can go in case of evacuation with your pets. That’s another reason to keep all of your pet’s records on hand! Some shelters do not allow pets, so know where you can go in case of a weather emergency before it happens.
Good Sam TravelAssist
With Good Sam’s Premier membership, you can enjoy extra coverage on the road. Good Sam TravelAssist coordinates and pays for your pet to be boarded if you’re hospitalized. They make reservations, pick up your pet from their current location, and safely deliver them to the boarding facility. Good Sam can also provide you with referrals and assistance in locating pet-related services wherever you may be traveling, including veterinarians, groomers, pet-friendly hotels and resorts, and other pet-related services.
Everything that we do in our lives comes with risks. The RV lifestyle has always provided our family with fun, adventure, and memories, but we know that having pets adds responsibility to this lifestyle. Just like we take care of the human kids in our family, remember that your pets also rely on you in emergencies. Staying calm will help your pet during an emergency, and it will help you as well. When you are prepared, you have extra peace of mind that you will do all that you need to for your pet. Happy travels!
Do you have any tips for safely traveling with pets? Tell us in the comments below!