Vacation time is upon us! We all think we have our act together when it comes to our pets, but the majority of pet owners forget one very important detail. This article might be a little of a downer, but the goal is to help you help your pet!
We all know the rules. Whether we leave our pets in boarding kennels, with family members, or have pet sitters come to the house, we have to leave instructions for them. What to feed, when we potty, etc. Make sure the people in charge have the contact information for their veterinarian in case something goes wrong while you are away. All set, right?
Not even close.
One thing no one ever does is leave more detailed instructions regarding pet medical emergencies. What if that worst case scenario does actually arise? How much can you afford to spend on emergency medical care? How far should you go? Would you want life support? CPR? Think of it almost like a living will for your pet.
Veterinarians, particularly those in emergency clinics, struggle with this more often than you’d think. We may think of something potentially happening with our older pets, but we need to prepare for emergencies with pets of all ages.
- Cats of any age can develop life-threatening urinary obstructions. Do you want your cat hospitalized to treat and save his life? It can run $800 – $1500 for uncomplicated cases, and double that if surgery is required!
- Dogs and cats can get out of the yard. We don’t want even think about it happening, but it does. If your pet is hit by a car, how far should the veterinarian go to (try to) save your pet? If the pet is suffering and near death, should the vet try to save it, or humanely end the suffering?
- Bloat (AKA GDV) affects large dogs of any age. Some studies show stress even can increase a dog’s risk for bloat. Many pets are stressed when their owners leave, and dogs experiencing this emergency in boarding kennels and with pet sitters is more common than you think. I know, I have seen them. Emergency surgery and hospitalization can run $2,000 – $6,000 depending on what part of the country you are in. Survival with treatment is never guaranteed, either.
I listed these three examples because they are the most common. I have personally dealt with each of these horrible situations when I cannot contact the owner and the pet is dying right before my eyes. When these severe emergencies happen, we do not have the option to “manage the pain” and give it several hours until we can find the owner. In many cases, the pet will be dead by then.
Do we treat it? Stop at nothing to save it? What if the process of trying to save the pet means more suffering (no pain med is 100%, let’s face it) for that pet? When do we humanely euthanize?
What if there’s only a small chance of the treatment working and the pet surviving? At what point do we end suffering?
What if there is a good chance of the pet living a normal life afterwards, but the bill will be $5,000? Not everyone is prepared to pay a large sum all at once – especially after traveling!
“But I have my cell phone, and people can always reach me.”
I wish this were true. Many national parks have spotty cell phone service – you’re supposed to disconnect, after all! Traveling to a vastly different time zone means you could be fast asleep as we try to call you. Cruises are notorious for making people impossible to reach. Cell phone batteries die. People are not as reachable as we wish they were.
So please, consider writing a note and signing it, stating your wishes. No need to get a lawyer or a notary. Just give us an idea. Do you want your pet saved at all costs, regardless of suffering? If the prognosis is poor and your pet is suffering, would you want humane euthanasia? Give a dollar amount that is your max, so the veterinarian has an idea. And you can’t say “Do absolutely everything possible to save my pet” and give a limit of $500. Be realistic.
It’s horrible to think about, but it is so important. Without it, your family members, pet sitter, and veterinarian are all left guessing, and that is emotional torture no one should have to endure. Please consider including your wishes with all the other instructions next time you leave town.
And hopefully we will never need it!