Planning Ahead for An Emergency
By Anne Chauvet . . .
Emergency – just the sound of the word can cause your heart to start pounding. But when you have a situation with your pet and there is an immediate threat to their health, for many of us the first reaction may be panic. Our pets can’t talk to us and tell us what’s wrong making it all the more frustrating.
At Critical Care and Veterinary Specialists our 24/7 clinic works with animal patients and their owners every day. These interactions have allowed us to develop a quick check list and some tips to help you be prepared before an emergency happens so that when it does you’ll be able to react more calmly and get help for your pet faster.
At home: Take a few minutes to put your Veterinarian’s phone number and the number of your ER clinic into your cell phone. This simple step can save valuable time!
Make a little hard copy cheat sheet and tape it to the inside of cabinet or on the fridge with the phone numbers and addresses of your Veterinarian and the E/R clinic you will use. With those numbers, be sure to include the Poison Control Helpline: 800 213 6680, this can be an invaluable resource when seconds matter.
Do a dry run to the ER clinic: When you are under pressure even the most simple tasks can be unnerving. You can help relieve some of that angst by doing a practice run to the emergency clinic to find the best route.
Meet the clinic staff: At our clinic we will be happy to take you on a tour of the facility so that you can meet the staff and check out our equipment and become familiar with the facility. When you visit us again, perhaps under different circumstances you’ll be familiar with the surroundings. It’s always a good idea to call ahead to arrange for a tour and we will do our best to accommodate. However since we are an emergency facility, we know you’ll understand if we are busy with a pet patient. While you are there peek around – are the cages clean with fresh blankets in with the pets? Is the staff interacting in a gentle way with the pet patients calling them by name?
How much will it cost? Naturally every situation is unique, however there are some constants. When you are taking the tour or even over the phone you can ask about some common prices. For example you might ask for the price of an emergency visit and a mock estimate for a basic vomiting/diarrhea patient care. This is so important because it gives you an idea of what an ER visit really may cost. Pricing is tricky because it is hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison. That’s because some clinics do itemized pricing, and some do not. Some clinics have different pricing for the same items. For example, our initial exam is $85 for new patients and $65 for patients who have seen us before, and we do not charge for follow-up exams that generally take place within a month of a visit. In-house blood work, which includes a complete blood count (CBC), full chem panel and electrolytes, is $197, and this price is consistent because the same labor and supplies are used to do this test. IV catheterizations are $98 (including catheter, wrap, extensions and the first fluid bag), digital radiographs with three views are $200 ($100 for the initial view and $50 each additional view) with in-house interpretation, and overnight stays are $75, including IV pumps, memory foam beds and constant monitoring.
Additional helpful tips: Ask about their equipment. Is it state of the art? Do they have the diagnostic tools to get radiographs and blood test results fast so a pet can be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. For example, we have an in-house MRI, CT, ultrasound, endoscope, two sterile surgical suites, and a lab where we can do a complete blood count, electrolytes and a full chem panel and have results within half an hour. How many people do they have on staff? Be sure to find out who is actually there full time. It is not uncommon for clinics to have specialists by appointment only or for a few hours per week, so just because a clinic lists a specialist as part of its staff doesn’t necessarily mean they will be available 24/7. Likewise, it doesn’t hurt to drop by late in the evening to be sure it truly is a 24/7 clinic. Is there an emergency vet on premesis, and how many certified veterinary technicians are there? At our clinic, we have two techs at night along with the ER doctor. During the day, an ER doctor is present with two to four techs, and on weekdays you can also meet Specialists in our clinic.