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Going to the Veterinarian Abroad – 6 Easy Steps
Before we left for Europe on our cycling journey, we made a departure visit with our local veterinarian to review any issues, get Sora’s visa-entrance vaccinations, and a clean bill-of-health. One minor issue came up during our examination was a black growth on Sora’s paw. The vet deemed this hard calcified growth as nothing more than corn and that we should only be concerned should it begin to bleed. Knowing this information, we had little concern for Sora’s health as we departed on our bike tour.
Within the first week of our trip, I was looking at Sora’s growth and accidently pulled a pinprick-sized piece of skin off. No biggie, I thought, it will heal. Sora had other ideas. That night she started licking the open wound and within a few days, the growth had become inflamed and the skin began to slowly recede, exposing raw tissue.
We did our best to cover the growth with gauze and medical tape, but the wound continued to worsen, so much so, we became concerned and decided to take her to a vet.
Veterinary visits cause stress, to both the animal and their human, and the last thing we wanted to do during our tour was to have to take her to the vet. However, we feared not taking her could result in severe repercussions.
While visiting the lake town of Waren, Germany, we decided to make an appointment to bring Sora to the vet. There, they professionally wrapped her paw and informed us that we needed to have the growth surgically removed.
This meant scheduling an emergency appointment in Berlin, our next major city, and convincing the veterinarian to perform an operation on a dog he had never seen. Over the course of our ride through Germany, we visited three different veterinarians in three different cities.
The “corn” turned out to be a cancerous growth that could one day cost her her leg if we fail to monitor her paw daily. We are so grateful for the care we received and are happy to report that Sora has made a full recovery and back to her usual (or unusual) self.
Emergencies happen, even while traveling, and here we list the steps below for receiving medical treatment for your pet while traveling abroad.
Determine If You Really Need a Vet
First, determine whether your fur baby actually needs to see a dogtor…err doctor. Is the condition something treatable with over the counter medication or natural remedies? Pharmacies throughout Europe are a great place to start in order to determine the type medical care needed. We found that most pharmacists speak English.
Finding a Good Vet
If you decide a vet is necessary, it’s actually quite easy to find a doctor. I used Google Translate to look up the word for veterinarian (Tierarzt) and then visited Yelp to find recommendations. Though not heavily used in Europe, the service lacks the number of reviews, however, it still functions well as a phonebook.
Scheduling an Appointment
Next, we looked up the veterinarian’s website if applicable. This will give you their hours of operation, most up-to-date contact information, and a quick litmus test into their professionalism.
I generally assume that businesses with legit websites, will offer legit services. At this point, I went back to Google Translate to look up the phrase “Do you speak English?” (sprechen sie Englisch?).
Armed with this basic statement, I called the vet and politely asked if they spoke my language. In our case, all three vets spoke at a minimum basic English. Next, I did my best to describe the problem and ask to schedule an appointment.
It’s worth noting that in Germany, all three vets offered first-come first-serve services. This can be a bit of a pain since everyone in the community with a pet (even rats) will show up at the same time. Plan on spending at least 2.5 hours at the vet. Only when Sora required surgery were we able to schedule an appointment.
Communicating your preferences
If you want your pet handled in a specific way (in our case, Sora requires a muzzle) or you need to communicate the symptoms or problems, I recommend (again) using Google Translate. Translate the main words and have them saved and/or written down. You can always show the main words to the vet and they’ll understand.
Paying for service
In Germany, we found that very few businesses accept credit cards, including the vet. Be prepared for this situation and bring cash. Compared to veterinary care in the United States, we were shocked at the cost of her services.
Sora’s surgery, biopsy, medical wrap, supplies, and antibiotics cost $300. That includes the exam, removal of the tumor, anesthesia, and a follow-up email with results. In the US, we’re sure this would have caused us to drop $1,500 or more. A visit alone costs $85.
Before leaving the vet, inquire as to the best method for following up should there be any further issues. All three vets we visited provided their email addresses so we could reach out with any questions. They also provided printed descriptions of the procedure in German for any future issues. This is a general best practice so you won’t have to start the process all over again should you need further care.
Our veterinary care in Europe exceeded our expectations. Each vet took their time with us, seemed to deeply care about their work, and genuinely cared for Sora’s well being.
Their altruistic care radiated throughout the entire process. The costs were substantially less and the care was well above what we are used to at home. There was no selling of $peciality dog food, or insistence on having 12 different tests “just to be safe.”
While our concern for Sora’s cancer certainly caused stress during our journey, finding quality veterinary care proved a simple and pleasant experience.