Why the Animal ER is the Right Place in an Emergency

pet emergency

I suspect every veterinarian hears this at least once a week, “But I want you to see my pet, not the ER.” Yet sometimes the animal ER is just the place your sick pet needs to be. I get it, I would rather see my regular physician than someone I don’t know in the ER. And yes, I hate the thought of a long wait in the ER. But think about it, if you are waiting in the ER, you should count your blessings because it means you are not the sickest patient; you are just an impatient patient.

Here are four really good reasons the ER handles urgent and emergent cases best.

1. The ER Sees it All
A specialist like me is really good at managing a limited number of medical conditions. The ER staff sees everything, and one of their best skills is determining what the problem is and what type of veterinarian is best to handle the emergency situation. Take for example a cute terrier who didn’t want to go to the ER. His family thought he should see a board certified neurologist. Begrudgingly, he came to the ER. In about a second, the ER veterinarian recognized this terrier had inflamed joints and transferred the cute terrier to an internal medicine specialist. Specialists worry we won’t pick up on a disease we rarely see as quickly as our ER colleagues will.

2. The Animal ER has Different Equipment
Each work area in a hospital like the Animal Medical Center is organized to promote efficiency. Case in point: my work area in The Cancer Institute has a machine to count blood cells. The AMC ER does not. This is because nearly all my patients need a blood count, but those in the AMC ER don’t. But the ER has equipment commonly used to manage emergencies not available in The Cancer Institute. With the right equipment, the animal ER is better able to manage urgently ill pets than specialists working in other areas of the hospital. Keep in mind, your urgently ill pet may not have the luxury of time in an emergency for the essential pieces of equipment to be assembled outside of the ER.

3. ER Veterinarians Have Different Training
ER veterinarians are trained to recognize and react to life-threatening abnormalities like low oxygen, massive bleeding, or severe trauma. The ability to recognize and react are critical skills in emergency situations. Internal medicine specialists are trained to evaluate a sick patient and make a diagnosis and then manage long-term care. Not emergency skills at all. Pets with emergencies benefit from the skill and rapid care provided in the animal ER.

4. The Animal ER Can Prioritize the Most Critical Patients
The veterinarians in your neighborhood and at a specialty hospital like AMC use a schedule of appointments to manage care for pets. Appointments control the flow of patients throughout the day to avoid overcrowding the clinic and allow pet families to budget their time. An emergency visit in the middle of appointments derails the entire schedule and disrupts the scheduled patients. Properly prioritizing a pet with an emergency is tricky when you have a full day of scheduled appointments. The animal ER has no appointments, which allows them to prioritize the most critical patients and save lives.

Experience, equipment, training, and the ability to prioritize sick pets by their medical needs makes the animal ER a great place for your pet’s emergency visit. Not sure what an emergency is? AMC’s board certified emergency and critical care specialists have provided a list to help pet owners recognize an emergency.

One thought on “Why the Animal ER is the Right Place in an Emergency”

  1. I understand what you’re saying about the skill set that an emergency veterinary needs to have. My problem when taking the dog to the ER is that unfortunately many of the veterinarians who are working the ER don’t necessarily have the further education such as being board certified in critical care. Even if they have a criticalist on staff you’re still running the chance that they’re not going to be working when you have your emergency. Unless you live in a big city like New York or have access to a vet school you’re really playing Russian roulette on the qualifications of the staff caring for your pet and you’re going to pay top dollar for it. Not sure there’s an answer to this but it’s a big concern I have. I’ve also found that the staff at many ER clinics changes quite rapidly which raises red flags for me.

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