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Caring For Pets While Serving in the Military: 10 Important Tips

Pet owners among the 2.13 million active military personnel face the same problem when they serve: how to care for their animal companions1. These individuals are heroes worthy of our thanks and praise. We understand how gut-wrenching it must feel to leave their pets behind while they protect our country. Fortunately, many options exist for our military to rest assured all is well on the home front.

The situation is stressful all around because our cats and dogs truly love us. Some pets have a difficult time being away from their owners, with some developing unwanted behavior like separation anxiety. The critical thing is to have a plan to make the upheaval as easy as possible for you and your pet.

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The 10 Tips to Care For Your Pet While Serving in the Military

1. Figure Out the Answers to the Tough Questions Before You Leave

While it may be hard to do, you should consider the tough questions before you leave. Whoever takes care of your pet will appreciate your foresight. It’s also essential if contacting you might be difficult, particularly if you’re stationed overseas. That includes matters like emergency care and euthanasia. You’ll do yourself a favor, too. It’s undoubtedly easier to make these decisions when not in an emotional situation.

Gray cat looking out the window
Image Credit: chen, Unsplash
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2. Set Up Financing for Pet Expenses Before You Deploy

Owning a pet is a financial responsibility, with food typically making up over 40% of the animal’s daily care alone2. Setting aside roughly $2,500 a year will leave enough to cover most routine expenses3. That will include annual examinations and vaccinations. You can also get a credit card or separate bank account just to handle these costs.

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3. Sign Up for Pet Insurance

Pet insurance is a brilliant backup option to cover the unexpected. It can take care of expenses such as emergency surgery. You can also opt for a wellness plan for routine items like vaccinations. Your premium payments are minimal compared to the costs of major medical events. Many insurers also provide discounts for military personnel.

eyeglasses on top of insurance documents
Image Credit: MikhailNilov, Pexels
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4. Take Care of Any Routine Needs

We recommend taking care of any routine needs before you leave home. That includes things like ordering heartworm medication, getting vaccinations done, and microchipping your pet if you haven’t done it already. If you have a puppy or kitten, ask your vet about spaying or neutering your animal companion.

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5.  Ask Your Friends and Family to Help

The chances are your pet knows someone well among your family and friends. Having them temporarily take care of your animal companion is an excellent option for minimizing the stress of you going into service. Familiar people will be comforting and provide an emotional anchor when everything else is in disarray. However, don’t be hurt if they decline. After all, pet ownership is a significant responsibility.

sleepy cat laying on owners lap
Image Credit: Alena Ozerova, Shutterstock
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6. Find a Foster Home for Your Pet

Many organizations will help military personnel by finding foster homes for their pets. Several are run by individuals who have first-hand experience with your situation. They go the extra mile to ensure a good fit for a home and a pet.

They can provide additional support for other questions and concerns you may have about being in the military with a pet.

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7. Tap Into the Services of Sittercity.com

Sittercity.com is an option if you don’t anticipate being gone long. They can match you with a pet sitter to meet your needs with its free membership for military personnel. That includes individuals in the National Guard. The great thing about this service is the organization vets the sitters for you to give you the peace of mind you need before you leave home.

gray cat plays with its owner bed
Image Credit: Vika Hova, Shutterstock
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8. Make a Written Agreement

While it may sound impersonal and cold, we strongly urge you to write down everything, even the answers to those tough questions. It’ll ensure your wishes are carried out, even if you’re not there to make them in person. It also benefits your pet’s caregiver. They’ll know what to do if they can’t contact you. Petfinder has an excellent example of a sample agreement.

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9. Investigate SPCA International if You Get a Permanent Change-of-Station (PCS)

If you get a permanent change-of-station (PCS), the military will foot your expenses to move. That’s not the case with your pet. SPCA International can provide financial assistance to military personnel in this situation. The organization’s mission is to ensure you can take your pet with you and not be forced to surrender it if you can’t afford the expenses.

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Image Credit: Evan Abram McGinnis, Shutterstock
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10. Check Into On-Post Military Veterinary Facilities

We suggest checking into on-post military veterinary facilities if you’re fortunate to have your pet with you. After all, dogs and other animals are vital members of the military. They need care while in service. You may get significant savings by taking your pet to these places for care instead of going to another vet clinic. If they’re not available, ask your local vet hospital about military discounts.

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Many of us find it hard to leave our pets when we go on vacation, even if it’s just for a few days. It’s a different story altogether when you’re talking about an extended leave. Luckily, you have many options with organizations more than willing to help military personnel who find themselves in these situations. Planning will also make things easier for you and the person you entrust with the care of your pet.

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Featured Image Credit: Konstantin Aksenov, Shutterstock

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