by Julee Culbreth
Working in an Emergency Animal Hospital can be difficult. There are so many people who bring us their ill and injured pets who need help. That is what we are here to provide, but there are 10 basic things every pet owner can avoid so that you don’t end up in our Emergency Center!
1. Don’t give your pet medications that are not specifically prescribed to him or her! It’s so tempting to use that antibiotic that you still have stashed from your other pet’s mild infection a year ago or take some unused medications from a neighbor who’s pet “had the exact same thing” 2 months ago, but we beg you: don’t do it. Symptoms are tricky because some of them can be generated from a thousand different causes. Take vomiting for example. Vomiting is a symptom of Pancreatitis, Toxicity, Parvovirus, Gastroenteritis, urinary or bowel blockage, Gastric Dilatation, or Gastric Bloat All of these symptoms are just to name the tip of the iceberg. So treating a symptom is a bad plan because the treatment for all of the above-named problems ranges from medication to emergency surgery! And giving certain medications, like NSAIDs will restrict medications that we might need to give! So please refrain from giving any prescription medication to your pet unless directed by a Veterinarian!
2. Don’t wait to call and ask if you have an emergency. If you think your pet might be in need of emergency care please call us and ask. We would much rather reassure you that you don’t have an emergency than give you the bad news that you need to be on your way to us now! Waiting can have dire consequences if you do have an emergency. We all dread hearing clients say “He has been vomiting for 3 days” because 2 days prior, we could have done so much more for that pet. Sometimes waiting means it will take longer for your pet to get better, but sometimes it’s a fatal mistake. Do not think that we are going to judge you for asking a “stupid” question. We love every opportunity we get to answer questions and educate our clients.
3. Don’t skimp on the lab work! Many times we recommend labwork for our sick patients. Labwork gives us so much information! We understand that it costs a lot and we understand that it can drive your bill up, but it’s so important to the diagnostic process! Many times labwork doesn’t even tell us what’s wrong, but it’ll tell us 50 things that are NOT wrong. In so many instances, diagnosing an illness is a process of elimination. So, give the OK for the lab work! It gives us the best chance to make the best treatment recommendations.
4. Don’t feed your pet bones. Bones are simply the worst. I cannot tell you how many bones I have seen lodged in the roof of a dog’s mouth, stuck around a dog’s teeth, shards in the colon (Yes, usually we have to glove up and carefully remove them by hand) and clogging the intestinal tract. If there was a way to add up the amount of money people have spent because they allowed their pets to chew on bones, it would be staggering.
5. Don’t miss your pet’s annual wellness exams and vaccinations. Your Veterinarian had to be super smart and relentless to even get IN to vet school. They are really smart and just listening to the heart and running their hands over your pet’s body can provide a wealth of information about your pet’s overall health! They can tell you about new products, new treatments, and give you ways to keep your pet healthy and happy. This is especially true in cats who are experts at hiding illness. Cat’s don’t get sick slowly, one day you look up and they are 10 pounds lighter and really, really sick. Yearly wellness exams, paired with labwork when your pet gets older are the best way to keep them with you for as many years as possible.
6. Don’t assume your pet’s change in behavior or habit is “just because he/she is getting old.” We hear that a lot, but it never turns out to be true. A pet who doesn’t want to get up on the couch or go down the stairs is an ER visit waiting to happen. A cat who is hiding and goes 24 hours without eating is in serious danger. Even if your pet is older, please don’t just chalk it up to old age. Pain is not “normal” no matter what age your pet is. Animals tell us in different ways that something is hurting: Shivering, lack of willingness to run, jump or move around, pacing, panting can all be important signs of pain.
7. Don’t walk into our waiting room without having your pet properly secured with a leash or have your cat in a carrier. You can have the best-behaved pet in the land, but you are walking into a waiting room that is likely full of not-so-well behaved pets. You have to have control of your pet to prevent problems.
8. Don’t use over-the-counter flea or tick products that are made for dogs on your cat! It’s so easy to grab a product and not notice that little, red, crossed out circle with a cat’s head in the middle. Using these products on cats is a guaranteed trip to the ER!
9. Don’t wait to spay or neuter your pet. For females, we spend a lot of our time in the ER doing emergency C-sections and removing infected uteruses. For males, it’s either a dog fight or testicles caught on a fence. For both genders, cancer is another huge reason to spay and neuter. Mammary, uterine and testicular cancers are the most common. Any way you slice it, it’s expensive. Get it over with early and your pet’s chances of having to come in for an emergency visit are significantly reduced.
10. We understand how incredibly stressful it is to have to deal with the worry and the unexpected expense of visiting us. No one wants to be in the ER at 11 o’clock at night with a super sick pet. No one can ever really afford that visit because it is always an unexpected expense at the worst time possible. But please, refrain from taking out your frustrations on our support staff. We are all in this field because we are passionate about helping you and helping your pet at a time when you need us the most. We don’t get paid a lot and our families sacrifice having us around at all hours of the day and night. We can deal with blood, feces, vomit, high-stress ER drama and we really don’t mind any of that. But when a stressed-out owner wants to treat us badly and take our their frustrations on us, it adds to the reasons that Veterinarians and Veterinary workers have an abnormally high suicide rate.
Being in the veterinary industry is a hard, but rewarding job. We strive to offer the best care for all of our patients at all times. But, it’s like a team sport. We work together with not only our veterinary staff but with our pet parents in order to make sure the best care is being given. This teamwork makes our jobs easier and overall more effective!