For The (Medical) Record

I usually try to write wildly interesting blog posts. Posts so very  interesting that you lay in bed for hours at night thinking about them. Posts on topics SO revolutionary that they live on the edge of all global scientific knowledge and will likely, one day, be recognized by the Nobel Prize committee. Or at least the Pulitzer Prize committee. Or at least earn me a blue Participation ribbon.

This is not one of them.

This one is about paperwork.


I joke, because actually, when it comes to protecting your pets, paperwork can be crucial. Just like with humans, having current, up-to-date medical records for your pets can be very important.

When you travel with your pets, I am sure you bring along all sorts of vitally important things that your pet needs for the trip – their favorite bed, Sentry Calming Spray, food, medication, that little toy that they love to play with that you think looks a little like Bea Arthur and whose eyes seem to follow you everywhere, accusingly. (That last one could be unique to my pets, I dunno.)

One thing that you can add to that list that could make a big difference if you run into medical misadventure would be a copy of pertinent medical records. We never like to think that our pets will take ill while on the road, but it does happen. If and when it does, it is not likely to be in a convenient place. Take it from me – I have seen lots of folks come into my ER from all corners of the globe with their sick pets when they are on holiday. Being on your home turf with a veterinarian you know is always better than a strange ER in a strange city with a strange doctor (not to mention a strange toy that follows you with its wee, beady eyes.) At least having your pet’s pertinent medical records with you during a crisis can help fend off some of that unhinged, lost feeling.

Not only can it help you feel better, but it can make a world of difference to the doctor treating your pet. Being the ‘new guy’ (or gal) on the case and not knowing what has been going with your pet in the past can really be a barrier to getting them on their feet again. You may know that your pet takes a little yellow pill for her arthritis, but if your medical record tells the veterinarian that it is actually 25mg of carprofen, they will have a big advantage over just knowing that it is a little yellow pill. This can avoid potentially dangerous medical interactions and a host of other complications that you don’t need when you are away from home.

Getting a copy of your medical records is easy – just call your veterinarian and ask for it! Most practices will be happy to provide them if you explain why. Some may charge a small fee for copying and mailing. Make sure you let them know the reason – some hospitals can take a medical records request as sign that clients are switching vets, and they may want to know why you are dissatisfied unless you tell them you are going on the road.

If your pet has an extensive or complicated medical history, having a ‘problem list’ (just a one or two page list of the diagnoses made) and a list of current medications can really help when a busy ER doctor is trying to slog through 80 pages of doctor’s scrawl. This will cut right to the chase and give them the vital information they need to start treating your pet. In most cases, you don’t need every single page of information – just the most recent problems, vaccine history, current medications and any chronic problems. Many hospitals have a page in the front of the chart that has all of this information conveniently displayed.

Also, if you have a pet with a complex history, you might consider asking your regular veterinarian if they do ‘medical boarding’ rather than taking the whole medicine show on the road with you. This way, if something does happen they will be right where they can get the most help the fastest – in your vet’s office. I am always surprised at how many people don’t think to try this option. Not all vets will offer boarding, but a large percentage will do it for their best clients and long-term patients with complicated medical problems. It can’t hurt to ask!

I can’t help you with that pesky Bea Arthur doll, but I can attest to how helpful it is to have a copy of your pet’s medical record along for the trip. Happy travels, pet lovers!


-Photo Credit: From flickr by Per Ola Wilberg


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