For the times when Scruffy eats something toxic, Fluffy seems unwell, Rex has a wound and many other scenarios, the Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota (AERC) is open 24/7 to help. If you find yourself in an urgent situation, here’s a guide of what to expect during an emergency visit.
The Phone Call
- You can call at any time to ask trained staff if your pet should be seen right away. Sometimes the answer is very clear – as it is if your pet has difficulty breathing, uncontrolled bleeding, loss of consciousness, broken bones, poisoning, etc. Other times, the answer falls into a grey zone and requires further evaluation that can only take place via an exam by a veterinarian.
- Calling before you come to the hospital allows us to anticipate your arrival, recommend if you should bring any items along (i.e. medications, records, toxin packaging) and give you an estimate of your wait time.
- We will inform you of the emergency exam fee and that additional charges can be anticipated if any tests or treatments are performed (after your approval, of course).
The Arrival & Triage
- While it may seem strange to concentrate on paperwork while your pet is experiencing an emergency, it is absolutely essential that you complete an intake and history form. It provides us with important contact information for you and critical background information on your pet. Rest assured, if your pet is critical, he/she will be attended to while you are completing the paperwork.
- Vital signs (temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, gum color, etc.) are taken within the first 5-15 minutes of your arrival. This helps our team determine the stability of your pet and if matters may be more serious than they appear.
- If your pet is in visible distress, a veterinary team member will ask your permission to bring your pet directly into the ER treatment area to be examined by a veterinarian. They may even ask approval to administer pain-relieving medications, provide therapy for shock, or inquire about your wishes regarding CPR if your pet appears very ill.
- A doctor will perform a nose to tail physical exam on your pet.
- Depending on multiple circumstances (i.e. stability of your pet, other patients in the ICU, the concern that prompted your visit), this exam could happen either with you in a private exam room or within our ER treatment area.
- It’s no secret that wait times in the ER can be quite long (several hours, especially during weekends and holidays) and a frustrating aspect of your visit.
- Our most critically-ill and injured patients are seen first. Families that bring their pets for humane euthanasia are also given priority so as to prevent further suffering. Despite long waits, please be kind to the emergency staff. Remember that what you can see from the waiting room may be only half of the story; there may be many critically-ill hospitalized patients behind our treatment room doors that also may need the attention of our healthcare team. We really do appreciate your patience and want to help your pet as soon as possible!
- Sometimes, it’s an option to temporarily leave your pet in our care while we run tests and you leave the hospital to run errands or wait at home.
- No matter how long your wait, we try to ease some of the stress, boredom and hunger by having magazines, television, Wi-Fi and complimentary refreshments.
Read Part II of this blog here to learn about the rest of the emergency clinic visit process!
Watch this whiteboard video to learn more about bringing your pet to an animal emergency clinic: