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A day in the life of an emergency room veterinarian

Here’s what happens in an animal emergency hospital.

On the evening of your holiday party your curious pup eats some not-so-dog-friendly scraps off the table — so you end up visiting us at the emergency veterinary hospital. Or if your outdoor cat is in the sun just a little too long on a hot summer’s day, your vet will probably recommend that you bring them to us. 

Hi, I’m Dr. Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian and a member of Fetch’s Veterinary Advisory Board. With around 5 years of emergency veterinary experience, it’s safe to say I’ve seen a thing or two. Here’s what a day in the life of an emergency vet looks like. 

Why do pet parents bring their pets to animal emergency hospitals?

There are two instances you’d bring your pet to the hospital rather than your regular vet: Your pet needs medical attention during hours your vet’s office isn’t open, or your veterinarian believes that your pet would benefit from the services of an emergency hospital. 

In instance number two, an emergency room usually has additional medications and equipment to address pressing, urgent conditions and the staff is trained for emergencies and triage. 

Taking your pet in for a routine checkup is usually planned out and scheduled in advance, but there’s normally no time to plan for visiting an emergency room. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a pet emergency preparedness plan in place so that you can act fast in critical situations.

Research the closest animal emergency hospital near you as minutes can often play a vital role in the success of your pet’s condition. While looking around for emergency rooms, look for places with up-to-date equipment and staff with experience with emergencies and critical care. 

What’s a day in the life of a pet emergency room veterinarian like?

The best part about working in a pet emergency room is that no two days are alike. The dynamic environment can be stressful at times but also exhilarating. For example, it’ll be completely calm, and then you’ll blink, and there’ll be three different cases that you and your team are treating. 

And while a great part about my job is that you’re always on your toes, the hardest part is that some ER veterinarians (like myself) experience compassion fatigue. This stems from being unable to save every animal, which can take an emotional toll on emergency room veterinarians. 

The harder moments might bring compassion fatigue, but it’s worth it in the end when we’re able to save the “unsaveable” pets. It’s the most rewarding feeling knowing that our intervention saved a pet’s life. 

RELATED: What they don’t tell you about becoming a veterinarian

What are the most common pet emergencies? 

As an ER veterinarian, I saw a lot of toxicity cases (especially since the legalization of cannabis), dog fights, cardiac and respiratory issues and pets that had unfortunately been hit by cars. 

But some emergencies are seasonal. For example, during the summer, we tend to see more dog fights, bee stings or heatstroke, and the Thanksgiving holidays are always busy with pancreatitis cases because pets snag unsafe food items or are fed too many table scraps.

Choosing the right treatment option per scenario depends on the root cause. For example, emergency room veterinarians might provide supportive care for food toxicities, like IV fluids and medication to reduce vomiting and diarrhea. While prolonged oxygen therapy would likely be the treatment for respiratory issues. 

Do most people use pet insurance to help pay for emergency hospital treatments? 

Unfortunately, most of the pet parents I meet in the emergency room don't have pet insurance. In a stressful situation, paying for life-saving treatments is the last thing pet parents should worry about. Pet insurance, like Fetch Pet Insurance, removes the stress of an unplanned medical expense and lets you focus on getting your pet the necessary care they need to feel better. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

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