According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, which completes surveys and shares data about the demographics and preferences of recreational vehicle users, a majority of the nation’s 8.9 million RVers travel with their pets. With so many pets on the road part time or full time, it is likely they will need some medical attention. But how do you find a veterinarian for Fido or Fluffy when you’re traveling? Since you’ll be looking for a veterinarian for a single visit rather than a “home” veterinarian to build a long term relationship with, different factors may come into play. It’s usually best to find an independent veterinarian who can make their own choices about pricing and medical recommendations rather than a corporate office with additional expenses whose employees do not have as much freedom.
EMERGENCIES – If you need a veterinarian for a medical emergency, the most important factors are proximity and availability. You should really take a moment to familiarize yourself with emergency vets (and emergency care for humans!) when you arrive in an area. If an emergency vet is not included in your campground’s guest guides, a simple search in a mapping app should quickly return the closest office with emergency hours. TESTS, VACCINES, PRESCRIPTIONS – If you know exactly what your pet needs and simply need a veterinarian to provide it, it may be worth calling around to local offices to shop for the best price. For example, if your dog’s heartworm prescription has expired and a blood test is required for a new one to be issued, you could reach out to each office nearby to determine their charges for the test and office visit, as well as if they sell your preferred brand of medication or are willing to write or call in a prescription to be filled elsewhere. Again, campground guest guides and mapping apps are the top resources for finding a veterinarian in this type of situation.
NON-EMERGENCY ILLNESS OR INJURY – Needing skilled care or a diagnosis in a situation that is not an emergency requires a more thoughtful search for a veterinarian. Here, too, a guest guide should be your first resource, as these veterinarians support the outdoor recreation industry and are the most likely to find an appointment for you and your traveling pet. You should also ask for personal recommendations of the office staff or local pet owners. Before making your appointment, briefly interview the veterinarian or staff to be sure you’re making a good choice. EXOTIC PETS OR SPECIAL NEEDS – It’s especially fun to meet an RVer traveling with an unusual pet, like a rabbit or a bird, and these creatures, too, may need veterinary care while on the road. Oftentimes, a standard pet vet office may not have the expertise to accept “exotics,” so looking beyond the tried and true methods for finding a veterinarian may be necessary. This is where professional associations for veterinarians who specialize in certain species or types of care can be the most helpful. For example, the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians lists their members online if your turtle needs to see an experienced reptile doctor, and those interested in seeing a holistic vet will benefit from searching the membership of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.