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Emergencies are serious, unexpected and often dangerous situations that require immediate attention. When a pet becomes ill, pet owners are rarely prepared. The possibility is certainly something that we need to think about before an emergency arises. Days when the family veterinarian can answer phone calls in the middle of the night or the morning of a holiday are few and far between. Today, many veterinarians do not even rotate on-call services with other area veterinarians. Instead, many refer all after-hours or urgent patients to area emergency or specialty practices.
When emergencies occur, we have only a handful of minutes to engage an emergency plan. Below is a list of some questions you should think about:
Does my family veterinarian provide after-hours or weekend services?
If my family veterinarian does not provide emergency services, who does he or she recommend?
What is the travel time to your veterinarian’s office or their designated emergency service?
Do you have a pet first-aid kit available and stocked?
Does your veterinarian have the ability to process laboratory samples urgently?
Is your veterinarian comfortable with surgery?
Emergencies can happen at any time and, of course, the types of emergencies vary between dogs and cats, and even more so based on a patient’s age and lifestyle. For dogs, the most common emergencies that arise are toxin exposures, hit by a vehicle, altercation with a porcupine, heat stroke, lacerations, internal bleeding and, the worst emergency of them all, gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). For cats, the most common emergencies are hit by a vehicle, attacked by a dog, cat fights that result in abscesses, kidney failure, heart failure and pancreatitis.
If your pet is ever sick or injured, it is obviously best to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Delaying care can be detrimental to a patient’s outcome and costlier for your wallet. Depending on the condition, the most someone should wait to have a patient seen by a veterinarian is 24 hours. Of course, there are conditions that may resolve or start to improve after 48 hours, but there is absolutely no way to predict a response. It is always advised to walk on the side of caution and have a patient evaluated sooner rather than later. Peace of mind is often priceless.
Emergencies always seem to occur during the night, on holidays and on weekends. Services during these times cost more money. In addition a veterinarian may require access to more advanced equipment, such as IV fluid pumps, on-sight laboratory equipment, ultrasound machines, X-ray machines, oxygen therapy or cardiac monitoring equipment. Not every veterinary hospital has these items, as they come with additional expense to acquire and maintain.
We do know when an emergency will occur, but it is very important to plan for when it may arise. We hope to never have to follow that plan, but having a plan and preparing for the worst can be very helpful. Again, not all veterinarians see after-hours emergencies, so the first step is to check with your family veterinarian as to what he/she recommends.
Joseph A. D’Abbraccio, D.V.M.
Catskill Veterinary Services, PLLC