Destination: Health / Finding a Pet Health Pit Stop on the Road


Jetting around town with pets in tow is as simple as buckling them up and rolling the windows down, but when a new city is on the itinerary it pays to plan ahead. Dr. Tracey Jensen, co-owner of the Wellington Veterinary Clinic in Colorado and Petplan’s 2015 Veterinarian of the Year, says it’s important to pay attention to your pet’s health needs before you gas up and go. Here’s her advice for how to prepare.

Know the potential bumps in the road.

Dr. Jensen says GI upset takes the cake for bringing out-of-towners into a vet’s office during a trip. Sometimes it’s caused by the travel itself, other times it happens due to stress from the change in routine, but tummy troubles are the number one problem veterinarians treat in traveling pets.

Second on the list is allergies; exposure to an environment that’s different from home can cause flare ups that require topical treatments or medication.

While it’s unlikely that your pet will experience something catastrophic during your travels, ordinary conditions can crop up more commonly than you might think. It’s best to plan ahead and pick a veterinarian before you depart.

Identify a doc at your destination.

Research veterinarians in the city you’re visiting. Rather than picking the first practice you find on Google, Dr. Jensen says to search for one that’s accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Because veterinary regulations vary widely from state to state, the AAHA helps ensure that member practices provide a certain level of care. Accreditation is earned based on 900 standards of practice in 11 categories and the process is voluntary—meaning practices willingly abide by the standards and open their doors to be observed every three years.

“When you’re in another city, you can visit an AAHA-accredited hospital with confidence in the level of excellence in the care they provide,” says Jensen.

Of course, there are good veterinary practices not accredited by the AAHA, but Dr. Jensen points out that there’s no way to know who they are. If you’re traveling to an area that doesn’t have an AAHA hospital, call the closest accredited practice and ask for their recommendation.

Come prepared with paperwork.

If you do have to visit a veterinarian on the road, it will make everyone’s job easier if you have your pet’s health history on hand. Before you depart, ask your vet for a summary page of your pet’s health, including current prescriptions and a description of any issues your pet has experienced in the past.

“If your pet has a history of things like allergies, intermittent diarrhea, or is on medications or suffered a reaction to medicines in the past, we need to know that,” says Jensen.

Because it’s easy to forget vital information during a time of distress, a pet health summary can provide details that could be critical to helping your furry friend in an urgent situation.

Listen to your gut.

Unfortunately, health hiccups don’t always wait for business hours to present themselves. Deciding whether to wait to take your pet to a general practice veterinarian during regular hours or a 24-hour emergency facility should depend on the severity of your pet’s symptoms.

“There’s a difference between a dog with diarrhea who’s still pretty happy and a dog who can’t hold down water and doesn’t feel well at all,” says Jensen. “That pet may need longer term care, so a 24-hour facility or emergency hospital is the way to go.”

Of course, you know your pet best; if anything seems truly amiss and you just don’t feel “right,” it’s worth it to err on the side of caution and get to the emergency vet.

“Things are not always what they appear. By the time a pet shows pain, something could be really wrong,” says Jensen. “Don’t waste time getting to the vet—anything else could be delaying the type of treatment your pet really needs.”

Arrive in smiles.

Hitting the open road with your best friend may take a little more preparation, but it’s well worth the effort to ensure your pet’s health and happiness. Put pet health preparedness in the driver’s seat and it will be smooth cruising wherever you roam!

— published in fetch! magazine, the “Jet Set Pet” issue