When your pet is sick or injured, it can be very stressful. 

Perhaps your dog has a cut on the leg after running through the woods, or your cat isn’t able to urinate, or your dog decided that bowl of sloppy joes was just too good — he had to eat the bowl as well. 

If that last one seems oddly specific, Einstein and I had that adventure a few years ago.

What do you do when your pet has an emergency? Do you wait for your regular veterinarian to open or call the after hours service?

The answer depends entirely on you and your pet’s symptoms. An ear infection, for example, while painful, can usually wait until your regular veterinarian opens. 

However, trauma cases should be assessed sooner rather than later; while external injuries may be minor, there could be internal injuries that need to be addressed. 

Porcupine quills are another emergency that is better to be seen quickly, quills will migrate and get deeper and may be more difficult to remove the longer they are in.

Some other symptoms that warrant a call to the emergency service include: lethargy, collapse, difficulty breathing, non-productive retching, bloated abdomen, changes to gum colour, pain, wounds, and straining to urinate. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but a rule of thumb is if you are worried, it’s better to call. No one knows your pet like you do, if they aren’t right, get them checked.

So who you gonna call? (Ghostbusters!) During regular business hours of your veterinarian, call them first. They may be able to fit you in or can triage your emergency to give you peace of mind. 

After hours, or on busy days, you may be transferred to emergency or on-call service.

In Toronto, and many other major cities, there are 24-hour emergency and referral veterinary hospitals. They operate very similarly to human hospitals and emergency rooms.

Unfortunately, the nearest 24-hour hospital to Sudbury is in Barrie.

For areas without emergency hospitals, like Sudbury, each clinic offers after hours call to their registered patients. 

A majority of Sudbury clinics have also started using a telemedicine triage service, Smart.vet.

Smart.vet allows every patient to be triaged by a registered veterinary technician and offer either direct transfer to the on-call clinic (depending on symptoms), or a virtual consult with a veterinarian, by phone or video call. 

There are limits to virtual appointments, but it does help with urgent versus emergent cases for the veterinarian on-call. They are able to dispense medications, either through a pharmacy or through a clinic that is open and will transfer you to in-person care if deemed necessary.

This is just one more way to give you peace of mind if your pet is not behaving normally.

When you see your veterinarian for after-hours care, you will be triaged. You will likely have to wait depending on how many patients are in hospital and how sick your pet is. Believe me, you want to be the one that can wait in the car and isn’t being rushed to the examination room.

For severe or complicated illnesses and for specialty surgeries, you may need to be referred to an emergency hospital, likely in Toronto. 

We will do everything we can to stabilize and treat your pet, but your pet’s treatment may require special equipment and/or training that we do not have, and by recommending referral to a place that does we are advocating best care for your pet.

When travelling with your pets, make sure you look up what emergency services are available in the area so you can be prepared if something does happen.

If you were wondering, Einstein eventually pooped out all the bowl fragments. 

But it was a very tense week for us, we learned not to leave anything on any part of the counter, and that my mom’s sloppy joes are bowl-eating good.

Dr. Courtney Andrews is a veterinarian at Lockerby Animal Hospital, a graduate of the Royal School of Veterinary Studies and dog mom to Argyll and Einstein. Animals & Pets is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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