Getting Help for Sick Pets

Cat with veterinary collar after coming home from the hospitalIt’s frightening when a pet becomes ill and your vet is closed, another vet has no openings, and the ER has a wait of several hours. In all fairness to the ER docs, they triage the problems and do their best to get to each patient as quickly as possible and in the order of severity of the illness or injury. Still, in today’s environment, it can be a long wait. Many are still doing full covid protocol too. So, you wait in a parking lot and can’t be with your pet to talk to the doctor except by phone from the car. None of that is ideal.

There are a few ways to handle these problems that make it a bit easier. First, recognize the fact that things have changed. Getting upset won’t make it go away. Your pet needs you to be calm and get him/her appropriate care. It’s best to be prepared, but you can find help on the fly if it’s necessary.

In a crisis, call your regular vet for advice first. Sometimes they can work you in. If not, or if your vet is closed, call an ER and get on their list. They’ll tell you what to do, where to go, and the expected wait time. Do not try to treat the animal yourself unless you are told to by your doctor or the ER staff. If they indicate it’s not urgent and tell you to come in in three hours, get busy calling to see if a clinic on your side of town has an appointment.

If you find care sooner, you can call the ER to cancel. Don’t cancel unless you have a confirmed appointment. Also, be sure you have sturdy carriers, leashes, harnesses, and collars, to transport your pet. It’s usually required, and it’s safer. They will be scared, and they will be around other animals that are also scared. If your pet ingested something like food or medication, take the package, bottle, or product info, if you know what they ate and have the packaging.

If you aren’t facing a crisis, take action to be sure you are prepared. Make a list of vets that are close to you, including the addresses, phone numbers, and hours. Make a list of the ER clinics with the same information. Be sure you call the ERs and any clinics you don’t know to be sure they are still open. Some ERs have closed or changed hours due to staffing shortages, and the same for clinics.

Set up a file with copies of your pet’s records. At least, file the receipts there to have a record of who treated them, what the diagnosis is/was, medications, age, and vaccination dates. Put it where you can grab it and go.

Once in the car, secure the crate or harness. A fast stop could further injure a sick pet if they fall to the floor or the crate falls upside down on the floor. Never attach a regular collar to a seatbelt though. If you make a fast stop, your pet could choke or even break its neck. Also, do not transport a sick animal in the bed of a truck, not even in a crate. The animal could be running a fever. Wind and exposure can cause additional problems. Treat them gently, as you would a child, and get them to care as soon as possible.

I know how frustrated you are with the overbooked clinics and ERs. It’s not good for you, the doctors, or the animals. Please, try to understand both sides. There are fewer providers and a shortage of staff, but many more animals that need care. Many people added pets to the family when they started working from home. That increased the load on the veterinarians too. Plus, the doctors need to protect their staff to keep the clinic open to serve you and your pet. Covid protocols increase the amount of time it takes to see each patient. They are tired too.

So make your list now, be prepared, be patient, and help keep everyone safe.