Traveling with veterinarians is like extracting teeth – it can be either simply awful or awfully simple, depending on how much work you put into planning and what complications arise. Consider the following carefully in preparation for your next trip.
Make sure you have your veterinarian’s travel documents in order. Check with the consulate for the countries you are entering to determine whether any special vaccinations are required. Make sure that you have its passport updated and have copies of its vaccination certificates.
Brush up on your training before you leave. A solid recall is essential if your veterinarian is prone to wandering off. It is worthwhile perfecting the sound of a retching Labrador, which many veterinarians can hear over any background noise and which will usually trigger them to seek out the source. An even more effective recall command that will elicit an instant response is a loud, “Shit! I dropped the pedicle!” Save this for emergencies so that you have a truly panicked tone which will make this phrase even more effective. Your veterinarian will come running.
Most airlines allow veterinarians to fly in cabin. It is worthwhile acclimating your veterinarian to the cramped conditions it will experience on the plane well ahead of your travel date. Start by strapping it into a very small chair at home in front of the TV and feeding it small amounts of chocolate, wine, or other high value treats. Begin with short periods of a few minutes at a time and gradually work up to a couple of hours, giving treats intermittently as long as the veterinarian is not crying or whining. Over time, decrease the quality of the treats until your veterinarian is happy sitting for a few hours at a time with only a small sachet of pretzels as a reward. This training may take several months, so plan ahead.
When traveling by car prevent your veterinarian from sticking its head out the window. It just looks stupid. And don’t leave your veterinarian locked in the car with the window up. This video shows that veterinarians do not tolerate the heat stress well.
Almost all hotels allow veterinarians without a special fee, and some even allow them to sleep in the bed. Call ahead to check.
Take a favorite toy, usually a personal electronic device. Your veterinarian will probably not have a “real” vacation completely away from contact with work, particularly if it is a practice owner, and will need to be able to put out fires at home while it is away. It will also need to keep in touch with pet sitters, and surf VIN or I Can Has Cheezburger? when it is bored. You’ll need internet access while you are gone.
The most vital aspect of travel is that you MUST plan for your veterinarian to have animal contact during your trip. There is a strict requirement among veterinarians for skin to hair/scale/feather contact at intervals of (at most) four or five days. Failure to obtain contact in a timely fashion may result in fairly dramatic effects that can ruin your holiday. These symptoms include, but are not limited to, anxiety, restlessness, animal-seeking behaviors and hypervigilance, anorexia, irritability, insomnia, melancholy, intermittent bouts of weeping (particularly when viewing cute cat videos on Facebook), intense petsickness (like homesickness, but animal oriented), and antisocial behaviors (chief among them, cornering strangers and regaling them with long, uninteresting stories about pets left back at home).
In extreme cases your veterinarian may begin to seek out animals that would not normally be deemed suitable for petting, simply to obtain the skin-to-animal contact it needs. In other words, if your veterinarian starts to chase squirrels at the park or tries to lure coyotes with bits of food, act immediately. Find or borrow a dog, horse, cat, rat, guinea pig, cow, sheep, goat, or donkey and have your veterinarian pet it and talk to it for at least 10 minutes. Hell, in a pinch even a chicken will do. Maximum benefit will be derived if you can find out the animal’s gender and provide the information to your veterinarian so that it can engage in appropriate animal-talk (“Ohhh, who’s a beautiful boy then, hey? Hey? Have you been a good boy? Yeah, sure you have.”).
To prevent these crisis situations, plan your trip around animal-related venues such as farms, ranches, cat cafes, relatives with pets, or dog parks. These are target-rich environments in which your veterinarian is probably going to be able to score some quality petting time without disrupting your scheduled activities. Much.