Emergency veterinary practices are typically open nights and weekends, when most family vets are closed. Emergencies are scary and stressful, but emergency veterinarians are highly trained, skilled, and confident in treating emergencies, so your pet couldn’t be in better hands.
Shawn Thomas, DVM lists the following as TOP PRIORITIES if you feel your pet is in trouble:
• Trust your instincts. You know your pet best. If you feel something’s wrong, it probably is.
• Know basic pet first aid and CPR. Ask your daytime veterinarian to show you the basics, or to direct you to a good resource.
• For very young or very old pets, emergency care is urgent. “They don’t have the reserves,” says Dr. Thomas.
• Talk to your family to get the full picture. You may think your pet’s food bowl was filled by your spouse or kid, for example, but you learn it wasn’t — your pet isn’t eating.
WHEN SOMETHING'S WRONG
First, during regular hours, call your family vet. After hours, call the emergency vet. “We’ve had people referred — at the door 15 minutes before we open — because their vet was closing for the day,” says Thomas.
“Eighty percent of our patients call first, and we triage patients over the phone to help determine if there are helpful things you can do on the way to the vet,” such as applying pressure to bleeding, bundling warm towels or blankets for shock, or even breathing GENTLY into the pet’s nose. “It’s not unusual for a pet to seem to have stopped breathing,” the doctor says, “but often s/he’s just unconscious. A GENTLE breath now and then into the pet’s nose is okay, but if you don’t know pet CPR you can do more harm than good.”
That first call to your family or emergency vet will identify next steps. “Once we have enough information about what’s going on — that the pet isn’t eating, or seems lethargic — whatever it may be, we can determine whether the next step is to get to the vet as quick as you can — safely — or to simply monitor the pet until the family vet is open the next day.”
IMPORTANT: If you feel something’s wrong, make the call. “They’ll ask the questions,” says Thomas. Even if it results in watching for changes or continuing symptoms over a period, your call will create a valuable reference in the event things do become urgent.
Some things, like adrenal issues — can wax and wane, seeming okay for a while and then not okay . . . and then seem okay again. With conditions like congestive heart failure, “problems can get much worse within hours,” says Thomas.
#1 Trust your gut
#2 Know basic Pet First Aid and CPR
#3 If you think there’s a problem, there probably is — CALL THE VET.
#4 The younger or older the pet, the faster you need to act
TOP REASONS PETS LAND IN THE ER
• Severe Vomiting/Diarrhea
• Difficulty Breathing
• Toxin Ingestion
• Difficulty During Labor
• Bleeding into the Abdomen
• Heart Conditions
• Inability to Urinate
• Diabetic Crisis
• Severe Autoimmune Disorders
• Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in Young Animals
• Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Stomach Bloat)
• Pyometra (Infection of the Uterus)
• Laryngeal Paralysis
• Pet First Aid and CPR classes are available frequently at pet businesses and local shelters.
• Familiarize yourself with financial resources like Care Credit and/or pet insurance to help avoid a forced decision at the worst possible time.
KEEPING YOUR PET OUT OF THE ER
Local DVM Jason Nicholas of The Preventive Vet specializes in answering this very thing — through books, presentations, and educational outreach. Connect with The Preventive Vet online and social media, and watch for local appearances . . . and his latest book.
Tanasbourne Veterinary Emergency — tanasbourneveter.com
The Preventive Vet — preventivevet.com
Kristan Dael is a freelance writer and the alter ego of Jennifer Mccammon. She lives in Portland with her 4-pack, and strives to produce articles that inform, edify, engage and entertain.