WHAT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY:
The Funny Side
Michelle Chiunti, D.V.M.
Rinnnggg ..., Rinnnggg ..., Rinnnggg ..., Rinnnggg ... It takes at least four of these annoying sounds to wake the blissfully sleeping veterinarian on call for emergencies in the middle of the night. Even alarm clocks and ringing phones heard on television make my blood pump to jump into action. That call better be important.
As discussed last month, the dog or cat with constant vomiting and diarrhea, the cat unable to urinate and screaming in agony, the dog that just got hit by a car or poked by a porcupine, the bitch unable to have her puppies, the animal unable to breathe normally, or the cold and unresponsive animal are ALL emergencies. Over the years, though, it is hard to imagine the non-emergency calls we have received in the middle of the night.
Listening intently to the slurring person on the other end of the phone who just got home from the bar at 2:00 a.m. to discover that the new puppy just vomited up worms is NOT an emergency call. We all realize that our judgement is impaired after returning home from a night of drinking (that is why you took a cab home). However, before you pick up that phone to call the veterinarian about that “emergency”, I implore you to ask yourself these questions. Is your animal still happy, bright and more alert than you? Is that animal about ready to eat the vomit you just produced upon seeing the worms on the floor? Was this problem present before you went out partying? Will your animal live until the morning? The answers to all of these questions are “YES”. Therefore, your response will be to clean up all the messes, and call the veterinarian during regular business hours to arrange for deworming.
I also love hearing from shift workers in the middle of the night. Those whose night is day, and day is night forget that the world does rest opposite to them. We have had many midnight phone calls from shift workers regarding fleas and ticks on their animals. However, when you explain that they can come during the day to pick up the flea retardant of their choice, their invariable response is “but that is when I am sleeping. Aren’t you open 24 hours a day for emergencies? This is an emergency. My dog has fleas!” Fleas and ticks are NOT an emergency. Before you pick up a retardant, you can pick off and kill the pesty critters, eliminating half of the problem. It would also do well for you to remember that the veterinarian that you just woke up still has to put in a 10-hour day on top of managing your emergency flea problem in the middle of the night.
And then there is the invariably favourite emergency phone call about your dog being “stuck” to the neighbor’s dog. Yes, they are literally stuck together – it is called a “tie”, and they will part amicably in about 20 minutes. You will also likely have adorable puppies because of the “tie” in 63 days. Please do not disrupt this process as it could harm either or both the male and female dog. Look away, call your neighbour and start making plans for the impending birth.
Some of my all-time favourite emergency phone calls concern accidental medication ingestions. When your Labrador Retriever eats your pack of birth control pills, not to worry. Your dog will be fine (including fending off the neighbor dog’s advances!), but you may want to get to the drugstore as soon as possible.
Or the poodle that accidentally ate the anti-depressant that you just dropped on the floor. Your dog will also be happy for the rest of the day (who knows, it may even help the dog to be able to live with you more easily!). However, the possible side effects include monitoring him/her for suicide. Don’t let him/her near that rope toy for 24 hours! Luckily, the clients that I have talked to regarding these emergencies realize the humour in these situations, and it is easier to defuse the panic.
There are certainly some medications that are harmful if ingested by your pet, and calling your veterinarian or poison control center should be pursued. I am just saying that at times you can create your pet’s emergency without it trying hard.
At times, let logic, and sometimes sleep, prevail before you pick up that phone to call the veterinarian in the middle of the night.