Someone asked us how we handle vet checkups as full-timers for Tybee and Tyki. With there being so many people who live on the road with dogs, we felt this was a good question to write a quick post about.
Since Tybee and Tyki are in very different stages of their lives, we handle their vet visits differently. Tyki is a healthy (knock on wood) ~4.5 years old. He doesn’t require any medicine aside from his monthly heartworm prevention and flea medicine, which we are strict about giving. Annual trips to the vet are all he gets, a good thing too because he’s terrified of those visits. (He shakes even when we bring him along for Tybee’s visits.) We’re also lucky that he doesn’t get himself into too much trouble. During the 1.5 year that we’ve been on the road, he’s only had one emergency (thankfully during office hours) and had to spend an overnight at the vet.
We bring him to whatever local vet that has the best prices when it’s time for his annual checkup. We realized after hitting the road that some vets offer a first time deal. Often the deals are in the form of a free visit. This means we save anywhere from $40 - $50. This works out nicely because we travel and have access to new vets all the time. The downside of this is that his health records are scattered across the U.S. It requires a little bit more work on my part by calling and asking his previous vet to send over his health records. I also keep track of all his (and Tybee’s) visits with the name, address and phone number of the vets he’s gone to. On top of that, I keep detailed notes of the office visits for both dogs along with their vaccine dates so I’m not reliant on the vet’s records.
Tybee is now 14 years old and needs to visit the vet a lot more frequently than she used to. During the last year she’s had several bad cases of UTIs that required more vet visits than her standard twice a year check ups. Banfield Pet Hospital (frequently located inside Petsmart stores) offers several different wellness plans for dogs, puppies, cats and kittens. Tybee is on the Special Care Plan, which is ideal for older dogs with chronic conditions. After I realized that she was having continuous UTI problems, I did the math and realized that being on the wellness plan made sense. I pay $42.95/month and the plan is good for a year. The Special Care Plan that Tybee is on includes the following services:
- Unlimited office visits
- Comprehensive physical exams (2x/year)
- Diagnostic testing
- Fecal exams (2x/year)
- Deworming (2x/year)
- Dental cleaning
- Urine testing (2x/year)
- Preventive X-rays (3 views)
- Eye pressure test (2x/year)
- Electrocardiograms (2x/year)
- 20% discount on a lot of other Banfield services and products (like medicine)
Tybee has used everything on that list except for deworming and dental cleaning. While she definitely needs a good teeth cleaning, at her age I’m not comfortable putting her under anesthesia. Banfield did let me use the blood test that she would’ve gotten if she was getting a dental cleaning just as part of her annual check up. The other benefit of going to Banfield is that there’s one almost everywhere, they have long office hours, open on weekends, and her files and notes can be accessed from each hospital.
I order their heartworm and flea medicine through 1-800-PetMeds. Some of Tybee’s medicine I will order online and others I get through Banfield (with the 20% off discount from her plan). Tybee’s Gabapentin, a pain medicine that’s also for people, I get from CVS because it’s cheaper there than Banfield.
If your pet takes prescription medicine then be prepared for some hassles as you travel from state to state. Due to drug laws, vets can't refill a prescription medicine that was written by another vet in a different state. The vets I've come across all require that they personally exam Tybee before refilling a prescription or writing her another one. This is where Banfield's unlimited office vets come in real handy. The other option is to use 1-800-PetMeds or another similar online company to get medicine refilled. Also keep this in mind if you're traveling over the border to Canada or Mexico.
The downside of always changing vets is that the quality of doctors also varies, a lot. Even just going to all the different Banfield hospitals, we've come across only one or two veterinarians that I really liked and felt like they did a good job as doctors, were knowledgable, perceptive, and had good people skills. I've come across one vet at Banfield that was terrible. He may have meant well, but his communication and people skills were very lacking. He totally lacked tact.
This has worked out great for us so we’ll continue handling their vet visits this way. I hope this has provided you some useful information and will help you figure out something that will work for you.