Caring for Your Pet While in the Military

Updated: October 12, 2022
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    We love our pets like family members because of the joy they bring to our lives. Caring for pets when you are in the military can be challenging, but many services make it easier. These services include military veterinary facilities, foster care or pet sitters for military deployment, pet insurance, pet sitting and making a permanent change of station with your military pet.

    Use a Military Veterinary Facility (if Available)

    Many families do not realize how much money they can save by utilizing on-post military veterinary facilities. The costs for services at these facilities are significantly lower than at civilian veterinary facilities. You’ll have to check with your local military veterinary clinic to get a complete list of their services, as they may not offer surgical care or hospitalization services. If they do offer surgical services, they may be either a full-service or limited-service facility. Some facilities may even offer pet dental cleanings. Because of the number of military personnel using their local military veterinary clinics, appointments are often limited and in high demand. Make sure you call ahead to schedule an appointment, as far in advance as necessary.

    If you compare prices, 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 and tick control), is significantly less expensive. 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 subscription fee is typically waived for active-duty military. This benefit pays for itself tenfold, saving you hundreds of dollars in subscription fees throughout your pet’s lifetime.

    To get the greatest 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 go this route, the tricky part is ensuring your pet’s records are updated between both facilities after each visit to ensure all information is up-to-date.

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    Foster Care While Deployed or in Times of Hardship

    Service members want peace of mind knowing that their beloved pets will be cared for during deployments and 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 service members will make sure your military pets are taken care of while you are away.

    Pet Insurance

    The popularity of pet insurance plans has been on the rise the past 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 and routine visits. Do your research to find a plan that works with your pet’s 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. The premium for your pet may increase as your pet ages, but it is purely dependent on which insurance company you use. Most companies will not cover pre-existing conditions, which 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 when the coverage takes effect.

    Pet Sitting 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.

    PCSing With Your Pet

    Moving across the country or internationally with a pet can be a stressful ordeal. If you need extra help in ensuring a smooth permanent change of station move, there are numerous pet relocation services online that specialize in pet shipping services. Since the government does not fund pet relocation, you will have to foot the entire bill, which may result in financial hardship for some. Many owners surrender their pets to shelters because they 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 who need financial assistance with pet relocation. Learn more at SPCA International’s Operation Military Pets.

    Viv 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.

    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.

    Written by Team