Long waits, a rowdy waiting room, a less-than-hospitable hospital staff – we all have our reasons for dreading the emergency room. However, despite the inconveniences we typically have to endure, we at least know what to expect upon entering the double doors to our local hospital’s emergency room. Visiting a pet emergency room, on the other hand, can be quite a different experience.
If you’ve had the good-fortune of never having to take your dog to the emergency room, visiting one for the first time can be overwhelming. To help take some of the stress out of an already scary situation, the HPT team pulled from personal experience and expert advice to share exactly what you can expect so you feel as prepared as possible in an emergency.
Let’s get to it.
Is a Pet ER Different from My Veterinarian?
A pet emergency hospital and veterinarian’s office are not the same thing, with the main difference being how the two functionally operate. Because they provide immediate veterinary care, an emergency hospital does not require an appointment; a vet’s office provides more preventative and reactive care, and does usually require an appointment to visit with the veterinarian. Additionally, ERs are set up with specialized equipment and experts, and even ICU departments, to manage in-patient care and treatments.
As an example, a HPT writer, Maggie, recently phoned her vet when her dog was attacked by another dog at the local park. After analyzing her situation, the vet recommended she head straight to a local emergency clinic, who were set up to perform surgery if need be. Thankfully, Maggie’s pup didn’t require anything more than a few stitches (and extra treats for being such a good boy!). However, if the situation was more dire, a trip to the ER could have been life-saving since they had all surgery equipment and experts on stand-by.
What to Expect When Taking Your Vet to the Emergency Room
If you’ve never been to the emergency vet before, it can be a nerve-wracking experience and you probably have a lot of questions. Here’s what you can expect.
Be Prepared to Fill Out Paperwork
Take a deep breath – checking in will take some time. After giving your name to the front desk, you’ll likely be handed a clipboard requiring both basic and emergency care information about your dog. Complete it to the best of your ability.
Your Dog Will be Triaged
As you fill out your dog’s information forms, a vet tech will simultaneously assess your dog, checking their vitals and asking quick details about the emergency you’re there for. This is because emergency hospitals don’t operate on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, and instead see patients on a “most-to-least medically emergent” basis.
You’ll Probably Have to Wait (and that’s a good thing!)
As we said in our previous point, ERs see patients in order of the most to least emergent. So, if you’re told to wait in the waiting room, that’s usually a good sign that your pup will be just fine.
If your dog is taken into immediate care, keep calm! That’s the reason you visited the ER in the first place, and your dog is under the care of experts. The emergency team will keep you in the loop and, depending on the situation, may even bring you back to a room to chat with the vet and stay with your dog.
You’ll Leave with a Treatment Plan – and a Bill
After checking out your dog, you’ll get a chance to meet with the hospital team and go through a thorough treatment plan and their recommendations. Depending on the emergency, these could be actions that you need to take immediately (like ordering a prescription or scheduling follow up visits), or at-home care tips (like icing a sprained shoulder). This is a great opportunity to also ask the team to either forward information along to your vet, or provide you the information you need to relay to them on your own.
And yes, you will leave with a bill. While most emergency pet care centers require an up-front deposit to even have your dog be seen, they also don’t run cheap when it comes to the actual visit and care itself. Depending on your emergency, the care required, and if you have pet insurance, this could mean a hefty chunk of change coming out of your wallet up front.
While the cost is unavoidable, the best way to manage an emergency is to be prepared for one. Keep your veterinarian’s information, along with information for your local pet emergency room, on hand at all times (our team likes to keep it taped up on the fridge and in our “notes” section of our phones!). The more prepared you feel, the faster you’ll be able to give your pup the medical attention they need, and get back home to shower your patient with lots of love and treats.