Gen Y Dogma: How to Survive Your First Veterinary Emergency (Without Losing Your Mind)


I need 10ccs of red wine, stat – my boyfriend and dog are sick at the same time! Christina Peden had her hands full with two medical emergencies: one of the human kind and one of the canine kind. Here’s how she handled the stressful week of firsts that would knock any of us off our feet.

Well, folks: it’s been quite a week. Not only did my boyfriend have a fever so high we almost ended up at the hospital, but we also had our first veterinary “emergency” with our dog, Matilda. Thankfully, it ended up being not-so-serious and she’s fine (it’s just kennel cough and she’s on a cough suppressant), but at the time, I didn’t know that and was obviously really worried!

As a first-time puppy parent, it was a scary situation and it would have been easy to freak out. And I did, a little; but mostly (with big thanks to Ryan) I stayed calm, took Matilda to the vet and got a diagnosis. And she’s just fine.

If you’ve just adopted a pet or are thinking about doing so, keep reading. There will likely be a time when you need to make an unscheduled trip to the veterinarian, and these five steps will keep you from losing your mind in a potential crisis.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and neither are you (unless of course, you’ve completed the years of medical training and are a certified vet). If you’re really worried about your pet, it never hurts to give your vet (or nearest emergency clinic) a call to see if you should bring them in. Money comes and goes, but the love of a pet is for always. If your furry friend does need serious care, most veterinarians are willing to work out a payment plan with you if you can’t pay all the costs upfront.

  1. Don’t Panic

I know, I know. It`s so easy to say this until your dog is the one who`s sick or injured.

I`m a notorious worrier even when things are okay, so this was a challenge for me. In the middle of the night a couple days ago, when Matilda started coughing so much she was spitting up what seemed to be bile, I kind of freaked out a little.

While Ryan and I both agreed that she needed to see her veterinarian, I was ready to sound all the alarm bells and take her to emergency clinic, even though her vet`s office opens early in the morning and is five minutes from our house. Ryan thought we should wait a few hours and call the vet first thing. And turns out, he was right. (See that, honey? I just said you were right. Enjoy the feeling while it lasts!)

The point is, even in a true emergency, it’s better for both you and your pet if you can try and stay calm. You’ll be more able to help your pet and report the nuances of their symptoms when you get to the vet if you’re not in a panicked state.

Just breathe… into a paper bag if necessary.

  1. Step Away From The Internet (Mostly)

The Internet is both a blessing and a curse. I’m sure you’ve done this too: you get sick and start Googling your symptoms. You end up on WebMD or a similar website. All of a sudden your “headache” has become a brain aneurysm and your indigestion is a perforated stomach ulcer because you match one or two of these symptom’s conditions.

It’s so easy to do the same thing with your pet. I Googled Matilda’s symptoms and the two likely things that came up were kennel cough or that she may have a small piece of rawhide stuck in her esophagus, neither of which couldn’t wait a few hours until the vet’s office opened.

She’d been coughing for a couple days, but she was still eating, drinking and playing. Her energy levels were normal and she was eliminating on her regular schedule, so we knew the cough wasn’t affecting her body in any other way. If she had been lethargic or not eating or drinking, we would have taken her to the emergency clinic, no questions asked.

That said, if I’d given weight to some of the things I read on the internet (like that she could have Bloat, which is often fatal) I would have freaked out and rushed her to the doggy ER, which would have been over the top in this case. We gave her a spoonful of coconut oil and it relieved the coughing, which also helped us feel confident that we were making the right decision in waiting a few hours to call Matilda’s veterinarian.

  1. Call Your Vet

If you’re ever unsure about what to do, call your vet.

If your pet is in obvious distress, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that you should get to your nearest veterinary clinic, no matter what.

After Matilda’s bout of overnight spitting up, I called her vet’s office as soon as they opened. When I told them about her symptoms, they didn’t think it was an emergency either, but they had an appointment open at 10:30am, so I took it.

After a physical examination, the vet said she was fairly sure that Matilda had kennel cough (even though she had her all vaccinations in the spring). Kennel cough isn’t especially serious; it’s basically like a doggy cold that usually goes away on its own. We went home with a cough suppressant and an order to keep Matilda away from other dogs for two weeks, since kennel cough is highly contagious. So far, the cough syrup is helping and Matty’s doing well.

I’m glad that we know what’s wrong, and I’m also happy that I didn’t panic too much (Ryan helped with that). We could have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on unnecessary tests at an emergency clinic which also would have been very stressful for Matilda. Instead, she got to go to the vet’s office she’s familiar with and our bill was only a little over $100.

  1. Take The Time You Need

Your pet is like family to you, right? Right.

So if you need to take a sick, personal or vacation day to take care your pet or take them to an appointment, do it. Your work isn’t going anywhere; it’ll still be there when you get back. That’s what I did, and I don’t regret it for a second.

It’s easy these days to feel like work should be the most important thing in your life. Guess what? It’s not. At the end of your life, you’re not going to wish you’d worked more. You’re not going to wish that you’d gone to work that one day instead of taking your dog to the vet and potentially saving their life.

The point is, you must do what you need to do to care for those you love, be they human or animal. A job is just that: a job. If you’re putting work before the people and pets that you love, you’re doing it wrong (sorry).

  1. Give Your Pet Some Extra Love

Even if it’s something relatively innocuous like kennel cough, give your pet some extra loving with lots of cuddles and kind words. They’re not feeling their best and a little comfort goes a long way.

For example, I’m pretty sure Matilda thinks we’re punishing her when we give her the cough suppressant! Even though it’s cherry flavored, it’s still cough medicine and doesn’t taste great, so we have to squirt it into her mouth with a syringe.

After we give her the meds, we’re sure to give her some hugs and tell her she’s a good girl. Otherwise, she seems to think she’s done something wrong!

So go ahead: this is your free pass to completely baby your pet (as if you didn’t do that already!). For all the love they give you, they deserve an extra snuggle or two.

Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada’s all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city’s numerous parks or curled up with a good book.


Watch the video: Pancreatitis: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Veterinary Medicine


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