Caring for Your Pet While in the Military

We love military pets like family members because of the joy that they bring to our lives. Caring for military pets can be challenging, however there are many services that make having pets in the military easier. These services include military veterinary facilities, foster care or pet sitters for military deployment, pet insurance, pet sitting, and PCS’ing with your military pet.

  • Use A Military Veterinary Facility (If Available): Many families do not realize the amount of money they can save by utilizing on-post military veterinary facilities. The costs for services at military facilities are significantly lower
    Photo by SSG Stephen Scott
    Photo by SSG Stephen Scott

    than civilian veterinary facilities.  However, you’ll have to check with your local military veterinary clinic to get a complete list of their services, as many may not offer surgical care or hospitalization services.  If they do offer surgical services, they may either be a full-service or limited-service facility; some facilities may even offer pet dental cleanings.  Due to the number of military personnel utilizing their local military veterinary clinic, appointments are often limited and in high-demand. Make sure you call ahead of time to schedule an appointment as far in advance if necessary.

If you do a price comparison, all the services are at a fraction of the cost of civilian facilities.  Routine care such as vaccinations and preventative care (monthly heartworm and flea & tick control) is significantly lower in price; if your pet has never been microchipped, it’s much more cost effective to have it done on-post.  The microchipping fee is nominal and the annual microchip subscription fee is typically waived for active duty military.  This benefit pays for itself tenfold; saving you hundreds of dollars in subscription fees over the course of your pet’s lifetime.

To get the best financial benefit, use the military facility for routine and preventative care and a civilian facility for treatments, surgeries, and emergency care that may not be covered by the military facility.  If you do go this route, the tricky part is ensuring your pets’ records are updated between both facilities after each visit to ensure all information is up-to-date.

  • Foster care while deployed or times of hardship: Service members want peace of mind knowing that their beloved pets will be cared for during a deployment or during significant times of hardship. Reputable organizations such as Dogs On Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pets will connect service members, veterans, and Wounded Warriors with foster care and assistance. These pet sitters for deployed military will make sure your military pets are taken care of while you are away.
  • Pet Insurance: Pet insurance plans have been on the rise the last few years as inflation has outpaced the costs of veterinary care. Purchasing health insurance for your four-legged family members can ease the cost of veterinary bills as a result of illnesses, injuries, costly x-rays, as well as routine visits.  Make sure you do your research to find a plan that works with your pets’ needs and your budget.  Don’t forget to ask the pet insurance companies if they offer a military discount, as some companies may not advertise it on their websites. (It never hurts to ask).

The earlier you enroll your pet, the lower your premium will be.  Often times, the premium for your pet may increase as your pet ages, but it is purely dependent on the insurance company that you use.  Also be cognizant of the fact that most companies will not cover pre-existing conditions.  On the other hand, that is even more reason to purchase an insurance plan early on so that your pet would be covered should any new condition develop.  As with some human insurance plans, your pets may also have a waiting period from the time you purchase a plan to the time the coverage takes effect.

  • Pet is partnered with the Department of Defense in providing free membership to Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve families. Take advantage of this great program to find pet sitters and house sitters to care for your pets when you’re away from home.
  • PCS’ing with your pet: Moving across the country or even internationally with a pet can be a stressful ordeal.  If you need extra help in ensuring a smooth move, there are numerous Pet Relocation Services online that specialize in pet shipping services.  Since the government does not fund pet relocation, pet owners are required to foot the entire bill which may result in financial hardship for some.  Many pets are surrendered to shelters because their owners cannot afford the relocation costs.  SPCA International is dedicated to keeping family members and their pets together, and they will provide grants to military families that need financial assistance in pet relocation.  To learn more at SPCA International’s Operation Military Pets.

About The AuthorViv is a West Point graduate, an Army Officer, an Army wife, and a Family Readiness Group Leader. She has served on Active Duty with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now in the Army Reserves. She is enjoying life in Texas with her Army Ranger husband.

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