Planning for emergency pet care before emergencies strike gives pet owners options, enables fast action, and safeguards pet health. Start by researching the services offered at nearby clinics and ask about emergency fees that may be charged to cover them Fees, which vary by clinic, allow veterinary professionals to accommodate unscheduled visits during and after business hours. That 24-hour care is vital to pet survival. In order to provide that extra service, some veterinary clinics pass along a small charge for additional personnel.
When you should consider emergency care:
- Rapid heart rate
- Weak pulse
- Changes in behavior
- Excessive vomiting, diarrhea
- Bloody vomit or diarrhea
“People need to appreciate [the fact that] emergency clinics exist...that doctors and nurses are willing to stay up all night instead of being at home with their families,” said Sam Geller, DVM, of Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, an AAHA-accredited clinic in Pennsylvania. “No matter what the circumstances are, it’s a blessing [to] have that option and to have people willing to work nights so that the day doctors can be refreshed and at their best for the patients who come in during regular hours,” Geller added.
Jennifer Donat recently learned the importance of emergency services when a bee stung her four-month-old Australian shepherd Pixie. When the puppy came into the house with a swollen face, Donat called Four Seasons Animal Hospital, an AAHA-accredited clinic in California.
By the time Donat had dialed the number, Pixie’s face was so swollen that she could hardly breathe. Donat rushed Pixie into the clinic and was greeted by a veterinarian, who quickly gave her medication to reduce the swelling.
“Our regular veterinarian was at the clinic and it was AAHA-accredited so I knew it was a good place,” Donat said. “The clinic gave phenomenal care [but] in the chaos...with my kids there and my worry for Pixie, I did not have the wherewithal to ask about costs.”
Donat now understands that additional charges enable clinics like Four Seasons Animal Hospital to pull doctors from regular appointments, which helped Pixie avoid further complications.
To avoid surprise, Donat advises pet owners to ask how clinics handle emergencies, how they define emergencies, and what kinds of additional charges apply.
“It helps to know beforehand what different clinics charge for various services,” she said.
Debby Grossart and Tito, a five-pound Chihuahua she rescued from a shelter also benefitted from emergency care. Grossart took Tito to Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital, an AAHA-accredited clinic in Colorado, when his kennel cough worsened during the night. After the veterinary team checked his vital signs and took x-rays, Tito was diagnosed with pneumonia and dehydration. He stayed overnight for observation.
“He did a total turnaround,” said Grossart, who is shown with Tito in the photo here. “It ended up costing us $1,400 but I’m sure it saved his life. After this we intend to use Wheat Ridge for his regular care because of the great care the clinic gave him,” she added.
Recognizing emergencies and calling for help are the most important ways pet owners can save a pet’s life, said Geller, who offers first-aid classes. He recommends emergency care for any trauma (car accident) or conditions like gastric torsion, a bloating of the stomach that can cause death if not treated immediately. To identify gastric torsion, pet owners should look for pale or white gums, which indicate a lack of blood pressure.
For more information on pet emergencies, please visit Healthypet.com for a complete list of health issues that warrant emergency visits.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.