Long-planned vacations or business trips can feel like a looming deadline when a loved one’s day-to-day condition may be unpredictable. In the case you do decide to travel, having your pet supervised by a trusted person and taking the time to articulate your wishes in advance can ease some of the anxiety you may be feeling.
Have good people on the ground
The most important thing you can do is establish a relationship with a veterinary clinic that you trust. Veterinarians are much more comfortable giving emergency care to an existing patient with responsible owners. If your pet hasn’t been in for a checkup within the past year, it’s time to schedule that now.
Think about who you want to be caring for your loved ones and whether they should be at home or in a boarding facility.
- If you opt for an in-home pet sitter, do you want that person to live at your home while you are away, or drop in one or more times per day?
- Pet owners are often reluctant to impose on friends and family when a seriously ill pet needs care. Many professional pet sitters and dog walking services can take care of basic daily needs and medications.
- For a pet who needs more advanced care, consider hiring someone who has a degree in veterinary technology or experience working in a clinic.
- If you can’t find a pet sitting or home nursing service that can do what is needed, check with your vet clinic for referrals, or ask whether they have any technicians who do pet sitting on the side. Many veterinary clinics will also offer medical boarding.
Make your wishes known
Once you have found someone to care for your pet, think about what decisions you want to empower them with if you can’t be reached. It’s wise to check in advance with your veterinarian and find out what documentation/authorization they would find acceptable, and what their policy is for billing if anything is needed while you are away.
You’ll want to spell out your wishes in as much detail as you can. Some of these scenarios can be difficult to think about, but it’s important to be as specific as possible. Putting your preferences in writing will lend weight to your directives. Here is what to include:
- Identify yourself and your pet, along with their description.
- State when you will be traveling and/or the time period that your pet will be in someone else’s care. If you will be unreachable at certain times, include that information.
- Identify the person/people with whom you are comfortable making important decisions on your behalf.
- Briefly describe your pet’s medical condition and their current treatment plan (if applicable).
- State whether you want CPR to be performed should your pet’s heart stop beating, and/or whether you want to have a breathing tube put in if they stop breathing.
- Describe what other measures can be taken (e.g. anything deemed necessary, immediate life-saving measures, comfort care only etc.) until you can be reached.
- Name anyone (if there is anyone) you would be comfortable with authorizing euthanasia on your behalf, and under what circumstances you would want that decision made (if at all).
- If you know how you would like your pet’s remains to be cared for after he or she passes, you can include that.
- Finally, sign the letter and put your contact information while you are away below your name.
Here is a template that you can modify with your own information and preferences.
- Open on the web as a Google Document -to make your own Advance Directive, click File > Make a Copy… and then choose the folder you want to save it to.
- Download as Word Document
When to reconsider your plans
If you have trouble answering any of the above questions or feel like you must be the one to make any of these decisions, that may be a cue to change your plans if you can. Even if you expect to be available 24/7, sometimes the unexpected happens. Cell phones can die or drop coverage, or you might end up stuck on a plane longer than expected.
Ask yourself: how would you feel if your pet passed when you were away? Would you have regrets, or would that be ok so long as they passed peacefully and comfortably? Understanding your own wants and priorities will help you make a decision that’s best for you.
If you invest the time to develop a good working relationship with your veterinarian, find a trusted caregiver, and carefully think about and articulate your wishes, you’re more likely to be able to relax and focus on your travels. Even if nothing happens while you are away, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a plan.
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