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Posted on 07-11-2017

What happens when I come in for an Emergency?

By Jim Young, MS - Manager, Bellalago Veterinary Hospital

This is the third part of the emergency series by Jim.  

Part 1: What is a Veterinary Emergency?

Part 2: How do I Prepare for a Veterinary Emergency?

Most emergencies begin with a call to the hospital (407-847-0802) warning us that you’re coming in.  This isn’t necessary, but allows the medical team to prepare for your arrival.  Preparations are often determined based on what you tell the receptionist, but be brief!  We’d rather have your pet here and being stabilized than to hear all the symptoms over the phone!  Preparations can include readying bandaging materials, getting IV liquids ready, and completing other appointments (in order to allow more staff to assist with the emergency).  In some more severe cases, the surgical suite is prepared and surgical instruments, gowning, and other materials are set out in case your pet needs emergency surgery.

Once you arrive, the receptionists make a call to the back and the first available medical team member will come up front and take your pet to treatment.  The receptionist will ask you to sign some paperwork including giving us permission to stabilize your pet.  While it is usually less, the stabilization process can be $500 or more.  The receptionist will take a deposit as this time that will be put towards stabilization and treatment.  If there are funds left over, they will be returned to you or put towards a follow up visit (your choice, of course).  The idea is to allow the medical staff to stabilize your patient without having to take the time to run every item past you first. 

If you do not want to make the stabilization deposit, an estimate can be put together regarding how much stabilization will cost.  Of course, while this is being done, the estimate is being gone over, and the time it takes you to make your decision, your pet is not being stabilized!  While this can help with financial matters, it often costs your pet valuable time.

You’ll also have to tell the staff if you want us to perform CPR and similar measures or if you would not like us to attempt to resuscitate them.  It is important that you select the right course for your pet.  If you select the Do Not Resuscitate option, then CPR and similar measures will not be undertaken.  This is largely a personal decision and we’ll follow your wishes.

Once the patient is stabilized, the veterinarian will put together an estimate regarding treatment.  Treatment estimates may or may not include the cost to stabilize in them.  This is usually the worst time for any pet parent as estimates can become pricy depending on the severity of the situation.  Too often this is the point where a lot of pet parents have to make a heart-wrenching decision as to whether to treat the patient or euthanize.  I suggest that families have a discussion about what their limitations are prior to being in an emergency situation.  While most only consider financial limitations, remember that treatments can continue at home and can cost time and effort or be an ongoing issue.  Are you willing to take your dog out to use the bathroom on a sling each time it needs to go out?  Is your house doggie-wheelchair accessible?  Is there someone at home during your working hours to care for your pet?  Can you give your pet IV fluids at home?  Do you have the time to bring your pet back to the office regularly for treatments?  Do you have the spare income to buy medicine or prescription diets for the remainder of your dog’s life?  I can go on (and did in this blog post), but it is important that families have a basic game plan in this situation.

Some want to pick and choose the treatments their pet receives.  Some do this with the hope of saving money.  While it sometimes works out, far more often this approach ends up resulting in their pet not healing as well as they could have otherwise, increased pain and suffering for the pet, and/or costing the owner even more money in the long term.  However, we know that there are lots of reasons for these decisions and respect whatever decision you reach.  We cannot make these decisions for your, but we are happy to answer questions as best we can so that you can make the most educated decision possible.

Once we have your signature approving the treatment plan, we will perform the treatments, complete the surgery, or perform a humane euthanasia.  Due to their nature, emergencies can result in any number of possible scenarios at this point.  Our medical team will devote their time to your pet during these treatments.  Some team members who are not needed will continue completing other work so to stay out of the team’s way.  At no point during the emergency treatments will your pet be left without a human keeping an eye on them.  This job usually falls to one of our certified veterinary technicians who have been trained to spot even the smallest of issues!  Doctor Young leads the whole team and, with years of experience working as an emergency veterinarian outside Chicago, makes the process go smoothly and seem easy.  However, we all know that it is anything but easy!

The medical team will keep the family up to date on what is going on.  Once she can leave the patient’s side, Doctor will meet with the pet’s parents and go over everything with them.  Normally we do not reunite the pet with the family before Doctor goes over things because people get overcome with emotion seeing their pet and do not listen.  Doctor will also type out notes so that you can refer back to them later if you don’t remember something.  You can also give us a call.

Finally, once the treatments are performed or surgery is completed and the pet is awake and alert from anesthesia, they will be brought back to their family.  If the pet had anesthesia, they might still be under the influence and not able to walk or stand on their own.  They might also need assistance navigating the world as the drugs given might make them a little “dopey.”  It is important to remember that during this time the patient might not recognize family and lash out.  Please use caution and don’t take it personally.  They’re under the influence of some pretty powerful drugs.

Our medical team will help get your pet to your vehicle, if needed, while you settle up your bill.  In my earlier post about planning for an emergency, I suggested that you consider Care Credit to help make the bill more manageable.  Please consider it.  The bill for an emergency can run from $100 to $2000 with a very occasional one exceeding that.  If the pet needs to be hospitalized and monitored overnight, your records will be sent to the emergency facility of your choice.  We cannot control what the emergency hospital charges for these services and some can be rather pricy. 

A lot goes in to an emergency.  Besides all the preparation, skill, and work, emergencies take a lot out of our staff.  They are emotionally and physically draining for everyone.  I applaud the work that our team does and, if you’re ever in such a situation (God forbid!), I know you’ll appreciate having them at the ready too.  

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