Who’s in charge of your animal’s care while you’re away?

Dog looking out a windowThe reservations are made, the bags are packed, and you’re ready for your trip. If you’re not taking your animal(s) with you, who’s in charge of healthcare decisions while you’re away? Cell phones and computers have made it much easier to stay in touch and be contacted, but what if you can’t be reached in case of an emergency?
 
Regardless of whether you’re leaving your animal in the care of family or friends, a veterinary hospital, boarding kennel or stable, you should authorize someone you trust to act on your behalf in case of an emergency if you can’t be reached. Make sure that person is aware of your wishes regarding emergency treatment; this includes the potentially uncomfortable topic of financial limits, if there are any. Provide that person with all possible methods of contacting you in case of an emergency, including contact information for your traveling companions as appropriate, as well as an assurance of your trust that they can make decisions if you cannot be reached.
 

Questions to consider:

  • Does your animal have any health conditions that could result in emergency situations (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, severe arthritis, chronic colic, etc.)?  If so, consider the possible emergencies that could occur and whether or not you should set limits for the extent of care or the cost of care of these problems.
  • Are there certain tests, procedures or treatments that you would not authorize? If so, make sure that your authorized agent is aware of your preferences.
  • Are there financial limitations? Be realistic and keep in mind that you will be financially responsible for the care and treatment provided.
  • How will you arrange payment for emergency treatment? Do you expect your authorized agent to pay, and plan to reimburse them? Or will you provide a form of payment to be used in case of emergency?
  • If your pet dies or has to be euthanized, what do you wish to be done with your animal’s remains?

Actions to provide for your pet’s care while you’re away

  • Communicate your preferences clearly to all persons authorized to make decisions regarding your animal’s health.
  • Complete an Animal Care Emergency Authorization Form (or develop your own, based on your needs) and provide signed copies to all those authorized to make decisions. If your regular veterinarian will be providing emergency care, provide them with a signed copy of the form before you leave and inform them of your preferences as well as the names and contact information of your authorized agent. 
  • If your animal is microchipped, consider adding your authorized agent as an alternate contact in the microchip manufacturer’s database in the event your animal is lost and its microchip is scanned by a shelter or veterinary hospital.
  • Make sure there’s an ample supply  of your animal’s food, medications and supplements to cover the time you’re away – plus a few extra days, just in case.
  • If your animal is on any medications, make sure that your authorized agent knows where they are located, how much to give, when to give them, how often to give them, and how to give them.  Don’t assume they know, and demonstrate the process if needed.
  • Provide your authorized agent with your animal’s relevant health information, including your animal’s vaccination status (especially rabies), medications and relevant health conditions.
  • If you appoint more than one authorized agent, make it clear who has the authority to make the final decision so there are no delays that could harm your animal.