Anyone who has ever had kids or pets knows that emergencies never happen when your regular vet or pediatrician are open. In the past, an after hours emergency meant dragging your vet out of bed for a midnight office call or simply waiting it out until the vets office opened in the morning, often with tragic consequences. The good news for pet owners is that after hours emergency vet hospitals and 24 hour vet hospitals are springing up all over DFW and are available to care for your pet when your regular vet is closed.
How do I know if it is an emergency?
Ultimately, the decision of what constitutes an emergency lies with you as the pets owner and caregiver. Below is a list, that is in no way exhaustive, of conditions and symptoms of an emergency medical crisis that probably can’t wait until your vet’s office opens in the morning.
- Labored or difficulty breathing
- Pale, gray, or blue gums
- Distended abdomen, especially when accompanied by dry heaving, vomiting, or collapse
- Collapse or extreme weakness, unable to get up.
- Trauma such as being hit by a car, or attacked by another animal.
- Ingestion of toxins such as human medications, illegal drugs, chocolate, rodenticides, xylitol, toxic plants, etc
- Severe vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Snake bite
- Allergic reaction, including hives and facial swelling.
- Unexplained Bleeding – especially if accompanied by bruising.
- Surgical dehiscence (When a surgical incision comes unsutured, especially from a spay or other abdominal surgery)
- Inability to urinate-especially in male cats
- Seizures, especially seizures that last longer than two minutes or if the pet has never had seizures before, or if the pet has multiple seizures in a row.
What should I do if my pet is having a medical emergency and my vet is closed?
First, call your primary vet’s office. Even if they are closed for the day, most vet’s offices have a voice recording that will instruct pet owners on who to call in the event of an emergency. For some clinics, it will be a pager number for a doctor on staff who is “on call” that night. If the vet does not have an emergency on call pager, then they should give the number to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital. If your vets recorder does not list an emergency number, consult your yellow pages, or the list provided at the bottom of this article.
Next, gather up any medications that you pet takes regularly, or that you have given your pet in the past 24 hours. The Emergency vet will need to know any medications that your pet is taking as well as any pre-existing medical conditions your pet may have. DO NOT give your pet any medications, especially over the counter human medications like aspirin or advil, unless directed to do so by a veterinarian. Over the counter human pain medicines can interact with medications designed to relieve severe pain in animals. In giving your pet an aspirin, you may be limiting the emergency vet’s ability to administer needed medications.
Finally, load your pet safely into the car and drive (or have someone drive you) to the nearest emergency clinic. Call ahead if you get the chance, but if you don’t have time don’t worry. Emergency clinics are set up to handle crisis situations at any time.
What to expect from an animal emergency hospital visit
When you arrive at the emergency clinic you may be asked to allow a nurse or doctor to bring your pet straight to the back for evaluation and stabilization. It is important that you allow the vet to treat your pet as quickly as possible as in emergency situations time is of the essence. You will be the most help to your pet by remaining up front, filling out the appropriate paper work and giving as detailed and accurate a history as you can to the vet tech or receptionist. The doctor will be up to talk to you as soon as your pet has been stabilized. If you need assistance getting your pet in from the car, please ask the front receptionist. Emergency clinics are equipped with stretchers and other aides to safely and comfortably transport your pet into the clinic. You may be asked to allow the staff to muzzle your pet. Please understand that even the most even tempered good natured animal can bite when in pain or distress.
If your pet is stable on arrival to emergency clinic, then you will likely be placed in an exam room with your pet where it will be triaged by a vet tech. During this time, the tech will ask you pertinent questions about your pets medical history and current problem. Try to be as accurate and detailed as possible in giving your pets history. The vet tech will then brief the doctor(s) on duty about your pets condition.
Depending on your pets condition and triage status, you may experience a variable wait time before your pet is seen by a doctor at an emergency vet clinic. Emergency vets don’t use scheduled appointment times, and treat the patients based on the severity of your pets condition upon arrival. The most critical patients will be bumped to the front of the line, while those whose ailments are not immediately life threatening may have to wait. Animal ER’s work much the same as human ER’s in that respect. If at any point during your wait you feel your patient has taken a turn, or develops new symptoms, please let the staff know so your pet can be re-evaluated and seen to immediately if need be.
Animal emergency hospitals are specialty practices. The doctors and techs working at the emergency hospital will have been specially trained in dealing with critical patients. Generally speaking, the hospital itself will have more specialized diagnostic equipment and treatment options than a veterinary general practitioner might have available. When you deal with an emergency clinic, you are dealing with experts in the field of critical care. For this reason, emergency hospitals tend to be more expensive than general veterinary practices. Many pet owners experience sticker shock at the price of an emergency procedure or intervention. Its a good idea to keep a credit card or accessible savings set aside just for veterinary emergencies.
Most emergency clinics will prepare and go over with you line by line a cost estimate of the proposed treatment plan for your pet. The estimate the emergency vet prepares for you will be the “best practice” treatment plan for your pets particular condition. Each item on the estimate will be explained to you in detail. If you don’t understand, feel free to ask questions. If you cannot afford the “best practice” estimate, ask the vet if there is a “band aid” treatment that can be performed to get your pet through until your regular vet opens again and can see your pet. Be aware, however, that sometimes there is no band aid option, and your pet will need aggressive treatment.
Note that all emergency vet hospitals in the DFW area require payment at time of service. If you are hospitalizing your pet over night or through the weekend, you will be required to leave some form of deposit at the time of hospitalization, and payment in full will be expected at time of discharge. (Note: Several emergency clinics interviewed require full payment of the estimated cost up front)
All emergency hospitals in the DFW area accept cash, all major credit cards, and Care Credit as forms of payment. Some hospitals also accept checks with proper ID. Care Credit is a special credit card that can be used at veterinary practices and specialty hospitals, as well as some other places like dental offices. Care credit is unique in that it offers two special repayment options. The card holder can choose extended repayment plans up to 60 months on large balances, or interest free financing for limited periods of time based on the balance charged to your care credit account. You can either apply for care credit online anytime at www.carecredit.com or you can apply in person at the veterinarians office. You will need to have two forms of ID for the applicant and co-applicant if needed. You will know right away if you are approved and what your credit limit will be. If you apply online, print your approval page with account information and bring it with you the emergency clinic.
Numbers you should know
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline: (888) 426-4435.
This hotline is staffed by veterinarians and is specific to animal toxins. Animals have unique physiology so information from a human poison control hotline might not apply to your pet. There is a fee of $65 for the consultation payable by credit card over the phone. When you consult poison control you will be given a case number which you, your veterinarian or your emergency veterinarian can use to consult with the poison control veterinarian at no additional cost until the case is resolved.
Dallas/Fort Worth Area Emergency Veterinary Hospitals
- DFW North Emergency Veterinary Clinic- Flower Mound, Tx 469-464-2964
North Texas Emergency Pet Clinic – Carrollton, Tx 972-323-1310
- Denton County Animal ER – Denton Tx 940-271-1200
- Emergency Animal Clinic – Dallas Tx (Greenville Ave) 972-994 -9110
- Emergency Animal Clinic – Dallas Tx (George Bush Turnpike/US 75) (972) 479-9110
- E-Clinic -Dallas Tx Uptown at N. Fitzhugh (214) 520-8388
- Animal Emergency Hospital of North Texas-Grapevine Tx 817-410-2273 *open 24 hours, treats exotic pets!*
- Lake Ray Hubbard Emergency Pet Care Center- Mesquite Tx 972-226-3377
VCA Metroplex Animal Hospital – Irving Tx -972-438-7113 *Open 24 hours
- VCA Fort Worth Animal Medical Center – Fort Worth Tx 817-560-8387
I-20 Animal Medical Center – Arlington, Tx 817-478-9238 *Open 24 hrs
- Airport Freeway Animal Emergency Clinic – Euless Tx 817-571-2088
- Emergency Animal Hospital of Collin County – Plano, Tx (214)547-9900