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Pet planning: Care for your pet in case something happens to you

Pets are our lives. They are our children, our friends, our therapist, and our partners in crime. As pet parents we worry about the food they eat and getting them proper health care. What about the days when we are not there? What happens to our pets if they outlive us? Who will care for them? These are tough questions that pet parents everywhere must take the time to answer.

Take the story of Ruby.

Ruby was loved dearly by her pet mom and they enjoyed each other's company for 10 years. Unfortunately, her mom passed away leaving Ruby alone. Ruby found herself in a Chicago-area home that was eventually foreclosed. Her new mom left her behind to fend for herself. Caring neighbors saw Ruby and offered food and water; she was finally rescued on a cold winter day by C.A.R.F. (The Critical Animal Relief Foundation). She is currently in foster care awaiting a new forever home. If her mom had taken a moment to consider future pet care, Ruby may not have experienced such unfortunate circumstances finding a new home. 

Ruby’s circumstance is common. Thousands of pets face similar situations in animal shelters.

As pet parents we can do a couple things to help ensure our pets are taken care of when we are not able. Here are some easy steps to help you get started:

Designate a primary and secondary pet guardian for temporary/permanent care of your pet. Consider your pet in your will and estate planning by designating a primary and secondary guardian to care for your pet. It will give you peace of mind knowing your pet’s guardian will be able to rehome your pet if temporary or permanent need arise. It is always good to name a secondary guardian, as circumstances can change in a person’s life.

Keep notes of your pet's daily routine, toys they enjoy, food, and any medications. It is a good idea to keep track of your pet's routine. This will help the person taking care of your pet know their diet, when they go out, and their favorite toys. If there are any behavioral issues or allergies, they should also be addressed. The more detailed you are about your pet’s care and routine, the easier it will be for them to transition to a new home.

Carry a Pet Alert card. A pet alert card provides emergency contact information to authorities, family and friends. If something does happen to you where you are not able to get home to your pets, they will be able to notify emergency contacts listed on the card to care for your pets. 

Keep your pet's medical records in one place and updated, including contact information for your vet and closest emergency center. It is important to keep track of your pet's medical records. The person taking care of your pet will need to know their vaccination schedule and exam history. If your pet takes any medications, their new guardian will need to know what kind and how often they need to be administered. Health history is also important: knowing about a chronic conditions, such as allergies, is crucial. Should an emergency situation arise, it is important for a guardian to have this information available. 

Consider Pet Insurance. The cost of veterinary services has increased over the years. For as little as $1 a day, pet insurance provides coverage for illness and injury. Policies can also be transferred over to new pet guardians, and you will have the peace of mind knowing your pet will be covered should they ever need immediate care.

Update, Update, Update. It is important to update your pet’s records every year. From updating contact information in the microchip database, pet alert card, routine care and diet, to renewing insurance policies, it is important to keep all their records up to date. This is the perfect time to follow up with your designated pet guardians, as well to confirm they will still be able to care for your pet. 

Pets are our lives, but we must not forget that they rely on us. Consider these steps to ensure your pets will continue to have the best care for many years to come.

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