Who doesn’t love a relaxing vacation? Fun adventures. Sun & sand. Boat drinks. Making memories with friends and family. But, often times our furry family members have to stay behind while we’re galivanting on holiday. This week I share some important tips for pet parents as they prepare for vacation without their pets. Happy reading!
Holiday Tip #1 – Keep Your Pet at Home
One of the first tasks a family going on holiday without their pets must accomplish is finding a competent person to care for their fur babies while they’re gone. There are quite a few options – staying at a pet resort, boarding with a family veterinarian, and having someone come to their home. As a veterinarian with many special needs patients, I’m a strong advocate for the latter – having someone come to your home to care for your fur babies when you’re gone. Why? Dogs and cats prefer to be in their home environment. It’s familiar. It’s safe. It’s stressful enough when human family members go on holiday. The stress of staying at a pet resort or boarding with a family veterinarian only compounds that of a family’s temporary absence.
Please don’t interpret my preference for a home pet sitter as a dig against the care provided by any boarding facility or veterinary hospital. The fact is – in general – the home environment is less stressful. Pets are more comfortable in their homes. They aren’t exposed to new and potentially contagious & fractious pets. Too many pets stop eating consistently away from home, and this can affect a pet’s healthcare. Obviously, some pets need daily medications and treatments. Certainly, finding a pet sitter comfortable with and capable of administering drugs and performing treatments can be challenging. But, if you can find such an adept individual, your pets will likely be quite grateful to be able to remain in their home while you’re on vacation.
Holiday Tip #2 – Give Permission To Treat
In recent posts, I wrote about common emergencies for both dogs and cats. Unfortunately, emergencies tend to happen at the most inopportune times like when you’re on holiday! Here’s a classic scenario. Pet parents go on vacation. On the first night of pet sitting, everything seems copasetic with Fluffy, the spoiled & chunky suburban house cat. In fact, all continues to go swimmingly for a couple of days, that is until Fluffy seems to have difficulty using the litter box. He’s straining and even cries when trying to urinate. The pet sitter is worried, and appropriately and immediately brings Fluffy to a veterinarian where he is diagnosed with a urethral obstruction.
As you may know, urethral obstruction is a life-threatening emergency. Frustratingly, the pet sitter has no documentation from Fluffy’s family that gives the pet sitter permission to authorize any medical treatment. To complicate matters, Fluffy’s parents are unreachable because they’re backpacking off the grid in the Alps. Veterinarians – by law – are able to provide stabilizing and pain-relieving interventions to any suffering animal. But, that’s it. Their hands are technically tied after providing stabilizing care and pain medication. Even if they want to do more, they legally can’t without a family’s permission, a consequence that is exceedingly frustrating for all.
How can you avoid the situation above? Compose a letter authorizing medical and surgical intervention for your pet(s) if needed while you’re on holiday. The letter should contain the following information:
- Specific statement authorizing medical/surgical care (e.g.: I grant Mr. John Smith permission to authorize recommended medical and/or surgical care for Fluffy.)
- The name / contact information of your family veterinarian in case your pet requires out-of-hours medical attention
Your contact information (e.g.: mobile number, resort number, email, etc.)
- Your pet’s advanced directive (e.g.: in the unfortunate incident of cardiopulmonary arrest, do you want the veterinary team to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation/CPR or do you want a “Do Not Resuscitate” order for your fur baby)
- Your legal signature
Holiday Tip #3 – Provide Payment
Empowering your pet sitter with permission to seek and authorize veterinary care for your pet is only the first step. You also need to make sure they have the financial resources to pay for your fur baby’s care. It’s neither a reasonable expectation nor fair to envisage your pet sitter providing their own funds to pay for your fur baby’s veterinary bills while you’re on holiday. Perhaps you can make special arrangements with your family veterinarian. Out-of-hours veterinary facilities generally won’t (and honestly shouldn’t) extend credit to new clients. They have a business to run and doing so requires payment for their services. Let’s also not forget emergency care is more expensive than preventative care, and thus, families need to be as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Give your pet sitter – who needs to be an adult by the way – a credit card or a blank check with specific instructions. Safer yet, be available to authorize payment over the telephone when a member of your pet’s healthcare team contacts you.
The Take-Away Message About Preparing Your Pets For Your Holiday…
Pet emergencies happen all the time, even when families are on holiday. So, pet parents need to be prepared for the unexpected. Keep pets in their home environment whenever possible to minimize their stress. Be sure to grant permission to treat your fur baby to those tasked with caring for them while you’re on vacation. Of course, be sure to provide those helpful caretakers with the financial resources to pay for your pet’s emergency veterinary care.
To find a board-certified veterinary emergency and critical care specialist, please visit the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care.
Wishing you wet-nosed kisses,