Picture this…you are on vacation and your dog is critically ill. You are on the plane right now and cannot be reached. What do you want done for your pet? How much can you afford? Does anyone know? This situation actually happens a lot. Just ask your veterinarian and I am sure they will have a long list of horror stories. I have experienced many such cases in my 20 years of being a veterinarian. I have some valuable information for you. Before you leave town, consider having this form with the following information. Below is a summary of what is in the form.
1) Name, phone number and address of vet clinic and for after hours the emergency clinic name, phone number address.
2) Authorization for treatment up to the following amount: $5,000 (or pick your limit). The person who is bringing the pet to the clinic must have a credit card with their own name on it that will cover the charges and a copy of your pet’s health insurance claim form.
3) Authorization for surgery if needed (minor or major)
4) Authorization for euthanasia if the pet cannot be saved and is suffering.
5) If the pet is euthanized, please have the remains held, or cremated with /without the ashes being returned.
To further stress the importance of this topic, let me share a few of the cases I have had.
Case 1: Owners are in Paris. Their 9 year old Goldendoodle twists his stomach. Also known as “bloat” or gastric diliation-voluvus. This happens very quickly and is life threatening. The surgery must happen immediately and it costs $3,000. Can I do the surgery? What would the owners want? In this case, the owner’s daughter was able to reach them through Skype and they approved surgery.
Case 2: Owner is on a plane between Mexico and Portland. Her 13 year old dog is found lying in yard suffering with end stage kidney failure. The pet sitter calls and reports that the dog is dying but thinks that the owner would not want the pet to be euthanized. I know this client and I personally think that she would want to end her dog’s suffering. The pet sitter would not bring the dog in so I sent an employee to go get the dog. She was suffering terribly with no chance of survival. Luckily, I caught the owner on a lay over between flights on her way home and got permission to euthanize.
Case 3: A Golden Retriever puppy, 6 months old, was chewing on a stick at the boarding facility. Part of the stick got stuck in his throat and his throat began to swell and cut off breathing. By the time they brought him to me he was purple and needed immediate surgery to open his airway with a tracheotomy. The consent form from the boarding facility simply said they had permission to treat but did not list a dollar amount or consent for surgery if needed. I could not reach the owner. I performed the surgery and then the puppy went to the emergency clinic for care over the weekend. The total cost was $2,000. When the owner got back he refused to pay because he said would have euthanized the dog and bought a new one for $600. I still think I did the right thing, but it was not pleasant dealing with the fallout.
Case 4,5,6 and more: Owners are out of town and the pet gets hit by a car. I have had several of these. These cases can be very expensive. How far would you want to go?
Lastly, I’d like to share how I make preparations for my dogs when I am out of town. About a week before I leave, the pets get a complete physical exam and lab work if they are seniors. Often conditions like kidney disease, gall bladder disease and heart problems are not obvious. These conditions will get much worse when the pet stressed by your absence or if the pet is moved to a pet sitter or boarding facility. I fill out my pet sitting authorization form completely so that all of my wishes are known. I authorize $5,000 of treatment as most life threatening emergencies can reach $3,000 right away. Hopefully I can be reached, but if my flight is 5 hours, my pet could be dead before I land if it is an emergency type illness or trauma. I check in with my pet sitter every day. I want to know if there is even a small change in appetite/water consumption, vomiting, or diarrhea. If there are any of these problems I want my dogs examined immediately.
I hope this article brings awareness to this potentially avoidable disaster of your pet needing medical care without known consent. So before your next vacation, please consider our information form, bring your pet in for an exam, lab work if indicated, and sign up for a 30 day free trial of Trupanion pet insurance to cover emergencies. Pet insurance is great! In an emergency, Trupanion insurance will allow the veterinarian to bill the insurance company directly. This enables the vet to begin treatment without requiring payment from the pet sitter.