When Your Pet Needs Emergency Medical Care

By Jennifer Hennessey, DVM, CVJ

Your beloved pet can become ill or suffer an accidental trauma at any time. During those times when your family veterinarian’s office is closed, there will be a local animal emergency clinic open, waiting to care for your pet. Before an emergency arises, plan ahead and locate your area emergency veterinary clinic and discuss emergency care options with your family veterinarian.  Financial preparations, such as an animal emergency savings fund or pet insurance, may also help you afford the cost of urgent care if it’s needed.

Knowing what to expect upon arrival the Animal ER will help your visit go more smoothly and reduce the stress of your “already stressful” situation. If possible, call the emergency clinic before you take your pet there and describe your pet’s symptoms. The staff can advise whether or not to bring your pet in immediately. Your call will also alert the emergency clinic about your pet’s circumstance which allows them time to prepare for immediate treatment upon your arrival (if needed).

Prepare to take along a form of payment, your ID card, and your pet’s medical records. Upon arrival to the emergency clinic, your pet will be assessed to decide if there is any immediate life threatening issues and if your pet needs to be seen before another patient. The “triage” system will be implemented, as in a human ER, which will place pets at risk of immediate death ahead of other sick pets. Be aware that it is not uncommon to wait 1-4 hours to see the emergency veterinarian for an exam and consultation. All pets are important to the emergency clinic and the pet care team. They will try to see your pet as soon as possible.

After a full veterinary exam has been done for your pet, the vet will discuss exam findings as well as their diagnostic and treatment plans with you. Depending on the type of testing and/or treatments recommended, you should be prepared for at least a 1-2 hour wait for these tasks to be completed. The emergency vet may recommend that your pet stay in the hospital overnight or for a few days for further observation.

When your pet becomes ill or hurt, contact your veterinarian or your emergency clinic right away. Taking the time to plan for an emergency with your pet while they are healthy is the key to reducing unnecessary distress should an accidental illness occur.

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