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What do I do if my Vet is on Vacation? A look at Pet First Aid, Emergency Pet Hospitals and Emergency Pet Insurance.

By Edited Mar 11, 2016 0 0

A vet examines a cat
After returning from a weekend away, my husband and I were shocked when our dog sat down, then fell on her side and wet all over herself.  We knew that we had no chance of reaching our vet in the middle of the night on a Sunday. Fortunately, we also knew of an emergency pet hospital nearby that would be able to see our pet.

Pet Hospitals and Emergency Rooms

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, one in 10 cats and dogs will have an emergency that requires immediate medical attention each year. Some of these animals will be fortunate enough that their primary vet is available when they need him or her.  However, the owners of the others will be left trying to find an alternate means of treating their animals. This is where pet hospitals and emergency rooms come in handy.

Universities with veterinarian schools in them run some of these pet hospitals and staff them  with students. While in some areas, veterinarians join larger clinics so that one vet is always on call to staff the clinic. These vets divide up shifts among themselves and their respective clinic staff so that pet owners who find themselves in an emergency have somewhere to go.

An emergency trip to the pet hospital may cost more than a trip to an ordinary vet. However, pet owners in crisis usually have few alternatives. This is where pet insurance can be handy.  

Pet Insurance

doggy dentist
Under normal circumstances, MSN Money does not advocate the use of pet insurance. Instead they suggest that dog, cat and exotic animal owners bankroll the money that they would have paid in premiums (between $6,000 and $10,000 over a pet’s lifetime) in a rainy day fund for when that animal gets sick.

However, today vets can offer treatments for your pet that were unavailable just a few years ago. These can include MRI’s, organ transplants and radiation therapy for cancer. These treatments often come with a hefty price tag – one many owners are willing to pay. Pet insurance can help with treatments that may run thousands of dollars.

In a pet hospital, a vet will often make a diagnosis and then present the treatment options to an owner framed in terms of cost. Owners must then choose which treatment, and which cost they will accept on behalf of their pet. Pet insurance can remove the cost element from what is already an emotional decision.

Should you find yourself unable to seek treatment for your animal right away, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests that you know pet first aid.

For more about pet insurance, see this article

Pet First Aid

Knowing how to treat your pet in an emergency can help to stabilize it until such time that you are able to reach your vet. Being able to provide treatment for a pet can also give an owner a sense of control and help to reduce worry. Additionally, knowing basic first aid will allow you to better care for your animal in an emergency or a disaster such as an earthquake, tornado or a situation that requires evacuation.

Here are some tips that the AVMA recommends for giving first aid to your pet:

  • Keep a first aid kit on hand just for your pet. A pet first aid kit must be stocked with medicine and bandages made especially for a pet. Never use adhesive bandages.
  • Know basic pet first aid procedures so that you can be a pet first responder.
  • Handle injured pets with care. Even a gentle animal in pain may act unpredictably. Never hug an injured animal. Always do examinations slowly and gently. Stop if the pet becomes more agitated.
  • Stabilize any injuries before moving a pet or do not move the pet if it cannot be stabilized. If there is no danger that your pet may vomit, you may take steps to restrain them while in transport. Dogs may be muzzled while cats or other small animals may be wrapped in a clean towel to restrain them.
  • Always keep your pet’s records handy so that you can show them to a professional care giver should the need arise.

Fortunately my story has a happy ending. My dog shook off the after-effects of her seizure by the time we reached the pet hospital. The vet on staff could find nothing wrong with her. His assumption was that she had a bad reaction to having had her diet changed by the caregiver over the weekend.



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  1. Liz Weston "Should you buy pet insurance?." MSN Money. 04/11/2010. 18/01/2012 <Web >
  2. Genevieve Rajewski and Alonso Nichols "Inside the ER." Tufts Now. 01/09/2011. 18/01/2012 <Web >
  3. "Basic Tips for Handling an Injured Pet." The American Veterinary Medical Association. 18/01/2010 <Web >
  4. "Pet First Aid Supplies Checklist." The American Veterinary Medical Association. 18/01/2012 <Web >

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