Back in July, I wrote a piece for this space about the increasing frequency of reports I was seeing about emergency veterinary clinics suspending 24-hour service. I asked readers if they were experiencing this in their parts of the country – and people from everywhere in the U.S. responded that, YES, wait times have increased exponentially at veterinary ER clinics and it’s getting harder to find one that still offers overnight care.
Well, I finally came up against the phenomenon myself. My friend Leonora has a tiny little dog, Samson (my dog Woody’s best friend from puppyhood). Samson’s usual weight is 4 pounds, 8 ounces – his long legs are like pencils and he is slender. But a little over a week ago, he vomited up a little puddle of bile on a Friday morning and refused to eat anything for the rest of the day. Leonora reported that he was still relatively cheerful, though a little quieter than usual – and he refused any food or treat offered to him.
When, on Sunday morning, the tiny guy was still refusing food, Leonora and I agreed he should be seen by a veterinarian. She called our closest 7-day veterinary clinic. They said they could absolutely NOT fit him in that day, nor for more than a week for a regular appointment, but if Leonora wanted to drop him off on Monday and have him spend the day with them, they could try to look at him between appointments. Leonora was grateful for the offer, but no. Samson is so small, he has nearly nothing in terms of bodily reserves, so we both felt it was important to try to have him seen sooner.
Then she called our closest veterinary emergency practice (about 30 minutes away). They said that the current wait time was at least 4-5 hours, and that all cases would be triaged, so if worse cases came in and Samson was stable, his appearance in front of a veterinarian would be pushed back. Fair enough on a Sunday, but yikes!
She called another emergency practice, a bit farther away, and they said their wait time was about 2 hours, with the same triage/worse cases rule in place. I told her I would go with her and hang out with her for the wait. We arrived at about 11 am – and left that evening at about 7 pm with some concerning blood test results, an anti-nausea medication, and some subcutaneous fluids onboard for Samson, and a recommendation to head to another clinic the next day if the morning saw him no better and still not eating.
Monday morning, still no appetite. Leonora and Samson spent 8 hours the next day at our closest emergency clinic, and left that evening with yet more medications (more of the anti-nausea drug, an appetite stimulant, an antibiotic, and a probiotic) and more sub-q fluids on board, more inconclusive blood test results, and an appointment for more tests the next day.
On Tuesday, he had more tests, more meds – and by that night, his appetite began returning. The further tests had ruled out multiple conditions that could have caused his lack of appetite and abnormal blood test results, though we still don’t know what caused his initial nausea and lack of appetite. He has an appointment for another blood draw at the end of this week and one with a veterinary gastroenterologist in a month.
As scary as it was for those of us who care about Samson, his story is undramatic; while Leonora’s wait times were lengthy, Samson did receive care and attention on each day – something that we have gotten accustomed to taking for granted but are extra grateful for today. We’re glad that it wasn’t something worse but can’t help but worry; it might still develop that his condition is chronic and serious.
And of course, I worry about my most fragile dog, soon-to-be 14-year-old Otto. As Samson has grown steadily better this past week, Otto skipped three consecutive meals himself! Why?! A year ago or more, he had gone through a period where he didn’t want to eat much, and was prescribed some medications to soothe his digestive tract and fight any nausea he might be experiencing. After his second skipped meal this week, I jumped to ask his vets for prescriptions of those medications again –and tried not to panic when I learned that both of the vets he’s seen most commonly – at two different clinics! – were out of town for a few days. Fortunately, another vet at one of those practices was able to look at his records and sign off on dispensing those meds. Of course, after his third skipped meal but before I had given him a single medication, Otto asked for dinner and has dug into every food dish with relish since then. Oy!
But I’m glad to have the meds on hand, just in case. And I will be making an appointment for him to be seen; if it takes a month to get an appointment, I need to start now!
If, in the back of your mind, you know your dog needs a veterinary appointment soon, get on the phone and make that call today! You may not be able to book a routine appointment for months! And be extra careful with your own dog, so accidental poisoning or injuries (as much as that may be possible) can be prevented.