As a Twin Cities emergency veterinarian and a fellow pet owner, I have seen a lot – especially when it comes to our canine friends. From noses that sniff out toxic foods, to leaps off couches that cause sprained or broken limbs, to illnesses that slow them down, there are many reasons for dogs to become repeat patients in the animal emergency room. So if I have to narrow my best tips and words of wisdom down to only five things, this is what I would want dog owners to know:
1. Honesty is the best policy.
If your dog eats something embarrassing or ingests some recreational drugs, please just be honest and tell us the truth. We’ve seen it all! It would be a feat to surprise us…but don’t let your dog take that as a challenge! We are in the field of diagnosing and treating pets. We are not law enforcement, nor will we judge you for whatever items are vomited, defecated, or surgically removed from the stomach and intestines of your dog. Your honesty and openness will save a lot of sleuthing and unnecessary testing, which means a shorter and typically less expensive ER visit.
2. Be responsible when it comes to medications.
Please don’t give prescription or over-the-counter medications to your dog (or any pet!) unless directed by your family veterinarian. There are many variables that go into the decision to start a medication. Drug interactions, drug side effects, and health history are very important considerations. When it comes to over-the-counter medications, dogs are NOT small humans. It’s not necessarily a simple matter of scaling back the dose a bit to accommodate for size. We see many pets of well-intentioned owners that need emergency care because of administering over-the-counter medications without veterinary guidance.
Also, please DO NOT give your dog aspirin for arthritis. There are a few conditions that benefit from low-dose aspirin therapy, but in this day and age, we have many more effective, safe, and targeted pain management strategies for arthritis.
3. Bon voyage, but don’t forget to prepare for a possible pet emergency.
When you go out of town, please plan for a possible pet emergency and prepare your pet sitter for the “just in case”. Although I sincerely hope your pet does not have an emergency, illness and accidents seem to happen at the most inconvenient times. It’s much less stressful for you, your pet, your pet sitter, as well as boarding facility and veterinary staff if there’s a predetermined plan in place for emergencies. Learn more about what you should leave documented for your pet sitter or boarding facility here.
4. Pet insurance can make your life easier.
It’s a reality that finances are often a factor in the medical decisions pet owners make. But pet insurance can help mitigate that factor, making it easier to provide the best care for your best friend. Pet health insurance has monthly premiums, deductibles, and different plans to select. Plans can include coverage for wellness care, dental care, emergency care (I highly recommend opting in for this one!), behavioral modification, rehabilitation, and more. But keep in mind that pet insurance works a bit differently than human health insurance. At a human ER, you provide your insurance card and receive an adjusted bill a few weeks later. In veterinary medicine, you pay your invoice at the time of your service and then your pet insurance company will reimburse you for qualified expenses. Reimbursements can range from 50-90% of your cost of care, but are highly dependent on the plan you select for your pet. It’s extremely important to thoroughly research your options and get advice from your family veterinarian before you select a plan.
Please Note: Pet insurance companies DO NOT cover pre-existing conditions. So it’s best to get pet insurance the moment you add your pet to the family.
5. We provide both emergency care and urgent care.
It’s not silly to come into the animal ER for urgent but non-emergent problems. A lot of families tell me they “feel silly” for bringing in their pet for itching, ear infections, or similar concerns that are not life–threatening, but are an uncomfortable health problem. I’ve brought my own dog to the ER for severe allergies! If your pet isn’t getting any sleep and you’re not getting any sleep, maybe we can get him or her some relief. Remember to grab a book, magazine, or laptop, on the way out the door, because there are no appointments in the animal ER. We see the sickest pets first and wait times can change at any moment.
Bonus: If your pet is a little overdue for grooming, there’s no judgement! From time to time, I have pet owners apologize for their pet looking unkempt, shaggy, or disarrayed. And I thought their dog looked just dandy!
Our fur babies will always be important family members, and I hope my words will provide new insight to you doggie parents, especially when it comes to animal emergency visits. If your pet does ever need emergency veterinary care and your family veterinarian is unavailable, both Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s St. Paul and Oakdale clinics are open 24/7, every day of the year.