Pets don't always get ill at convenient times, and if they are poorly or injured at night or at weekends you may wonder what you can do.
It is essential to find out what your vet's out-of-hours system is and have a plan in place before you need to use it- emergencies are always unexpected, but they are less stressful when you are prepared for what to do and where to go.
Vets are obliged by our professional body to provide 24 hour cover for emergencies. There are many ways of doing this -
• Some will use an out-of-hours provider (this has to be within a certain distance, but can be in the next town).
• Some towns have a cooperative between clinics where they take turns between the clinics.
• Some still do their own out-of-hours duties. This is what we do at Anton Vets as we feel this gives the best service for you and your pets- we see you at the normal place and we have all your pets' clinical notes available on site. Obviously this system can be tiring for the vets especially when they have to work a full day after a night on call. This is why we now have intern vets who carry out the majority of our out-of-hours work: the advantages are that there is a vet on site 24:7 for the hospitalised patients , and the vets who will be working daytime are only needed if there's a complicated case. Another advantage is that when we have a caesarean (they only ever seem to happen at night!) we can have a full team of vets and nurses available on the end of a phone.
First of all it is vital to know where you will have to go and how to get there. There are some emergency situations where a pet's welfare needs mean a vet must visit at home (all emergency services have to be able to do this where essential), though overall the onus is on the pet's owner to bring them to the clinic where pets will get quicker treatment and access to all the clinic's facilities- blood testing, xrays, CT, etc.
Secondly, it is always worth looking out for signs your pet may be starting to get ill and if unsure then call your vet during normal hours where possible. If nothing else this may save you money as a consultation during normal hours will always be cheaper than one out-of-hours (sadly it is very expensive running out-of-hours services due to increased costs at night and at weekends). All vets will run clinics throughout the day and often at weekends- for example, at Anton Vets we run clinics throughout the day 9am- 6.30pm weekdays and 9am to noon on Saturdays.
If you do call the vet out-of-hours, you may be asked to carry out some simple first aid and, in some cases where the vet feels there isn't a severe problem you may be asked to come in the following day. If this is the case, please always call back if your pet's condition worsens- advice will change if the illness does. Please also remember that, other than in severe welfare need, vets are only obliged to see their own clients - so if you call another clinic or out-of-hours service, you may well be referred back to your normal vet. The reason for this is partly due to not having your pet's clinical notes, and partly due to the fact that a clinic hosting such a service can only staff and resource this for the number of cases they expect.
Vets are committed to looking after the pets under their care and that is why we will all have emergency provision outside of normal working hours.
John Chitty BVetMed MRCVS