BALTIMORE - Like many pet owners, Jennifer Dunlap considers her cat, Siobhan, part of the family. One day she came home from work and Siobhan didn't come to greet her like she normally does.
"It was on a Thursday when my vet is normally closed and she didn't come down like she normally does to eat and I thought well something is up. So I went upstairs she was sitting in the middle of the room with her mouth open and it seemed like she was having trouble breathing," said Dunlap. She immediately took Siobhan to the emergency vet.
A trip to the pet E.R. is something that Dunlap shares with 63-percent of pet owners according to a recent survey by Angie's List. Many of them paid between $250 and $1,000 to get their pet healthy again.
"Our pets are part of our family and all to often what happens if there is a problem is that we panic and we go to the nearest place we can find that's open. That's a bad idea. We should check out clinics ahead of time that are open 24 hours. That way we are ready in case of an emergency," says Angie Hicks of "Angie's List."
Here are 7 tips for finding emergency pet care:
1. Prepare for an emergency: Find a highly rated emergency care clinic that's open 24 hours a day before you need it. Keep the phone number handy, along with that of your regular vet. When searching on Angie's List, check whether a veterinary office's profile lists emergency services.
2. Ask about training/credentials: Although specialty training is not required to administer emergency and critical care, some veterinarians pursue internships or residency programs to obtain additional experience. Some also become Diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, which requires an additional three years of intense training in treating life-threatening conditions after receiving a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.
3. Keep records: Once you choose an emergency vet have your regular vet fax your pet's medical records to the clinic and keep a copy for yourself. When seeking emergency treatment, be prepared to communicate any underlying health conditions your pet has and any medications your pet takes.
4. Do you need a specialist? If follow-up care is needed, your provider should be able to recommend other certified specialists, such as those trained in ophthalmology, or other fields of veterinary medicine. After you receive a diagnosis and a referral, shop your options for continuing vet treatment if time allows.
5. Invest in your pet's health: Emergency care can be quite costly due to factors like round-the-clock staffing, and state of the art technology. The cost for care varies depending on the care, but most require a fee for the initial exam and some require payment before treatment. Several companies offer pet health insurance policies that can help offset the cost of emergency care, but be sure to read the fine print. Another option is to open a savings account for your pet's vet expenses.
6. Know the signs: Pet owners should use their best judgment when deciding whether to take a pet to the emergency room. Obvious signs that care is needed include an inability to go to the bathroom, immobility, frequent vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or bleeding.
7. Regular checkups: Routine veterinary checkups can help prevent costly emergency visits.
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