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Pet health emergencies: Are you prepared?

Do you feel confident that you can safely and efficiently get your pet to emergency services at a moment’s notice if you need to?

Adrenaline can be a lifesaver, but it can also highjack your brainpower. The moment you realize your pet has an emergency, your body will kick you into high gear, giving you power to move faster and quicker than you would normally be able to, which can save your life and the lives of others. However, recruiting most of the body’s blood supply, including what the brain needs to think, is what creates that strength. So, while the body is empowered, the brain is left drained.

For this reason, it is essential to develop an emergency plan ahead of time, when you’re not in a fight-or-flight state and your brain can play a lead role in saving your pet’s life.

Have the contact locked and loaded
Have the contact information for the nearest AAHA-accredited emergency veterinary hospital at the ready. If that clinic is not open 24 hours a day, be sure to have the number for one that is. Have this saved into your phone, in a place you can easily find in your home (e.g., on your refrigerator), in your car, and in any other place your pet often is, such as with a pet sitter. Have the ASPCA poison control hotline number (888-426-4435) listed in your phone contacts as well.

Use the AAHA-Accredited Hospital Locator to find the contact information and address to the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital.

Note that the nearest exit might be behind you
This is an all too familiar phrase that we hear on an airplane before takeoff. But it’s a good reminder for any emergency. Know the route to get to the emergency hospital of your choosing. Having this route mapped out ahead of time will make for a much more efficient and safe drive to the hospital. Most map apps have “favorites,” so it’s a good idea to add in the address of the emergency clinic into your map app.

Understand the referral process
Talk to your veterinarian at your next visit (or better yet, give the office a call today) to find out how the referral process would look. If you understand the process ahead of time, you can better focus on saving your pet’s life, rather than being concerned about cost and process.

Andy Nigro, DVM, veterinarian at the Center for Animal Wellness in Denver, Colo., warns you will likely need a referral if your pet is in critical condition or if next-level testing (e.g., a CT scan, endoscopy, rhiniscopy, MRI) is necessary to diagnose a particular condition.

Lessen the chance of an emergency
If you haven’t already spoken with your veterinarian about a preventive care plan, don’t let more time go by. Prevention is key to diagnosing and treating abnormalities before they turn into disease or injury.

“There is no question that the adage ‘an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure’ holds true for veterinary medicine,” Dr. Nigro says. “Early detection of any problem through regular examinations and blood work and urinalysis is critical to successful management.”

Have your pet insured
An emergency visit and the necessary care will often lead to big bills. However, if you have pet insurance, this surprise cost may be covered. This will ensure that your pet will get the care he or she needs, and the financial burden will not get in the way.

Dr. Nigro says, “One of the more common reasons that people state as the cause for reluctance to go to an emergency clinic is the cost. Having purchased pet insurance beforehand is an excellent way to lessen the stress and financial burden of these visits.”

Be ready
Of course, the hope is that you never have to put your emergency plan into action, but unfortunately emergencies do happen. Take the time now to gather the information you need, so if you have to act quickly to save your pet, all you need to do is reference the information you’ve already collected.

Ann Everhart is the managing editor for AAHA’s publications.

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