Urbana, Ill. (WCIA)

It’s always scary to notice something amiss with your furry friend. Sometimes the problem is obvious and needs immediate attention. For example, your pet is hit by a car, or collapses and cannot walk, or has been vomiting repeatedly for hours, or is having trouble breathing.

But other times, you’re not so sure.

Today’s guests, Dr. Meghan Fick, specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care, and Dr. Danielle Martindale, a veterinarian completing the third and final year of her residency in veterinary emergency and critical care, see hundreds of pets each month through the small animal emergency services at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. They can provide some guidelines about what situations require immediate medical attention at an animal ER and when things can probably wait until there’s an appointment available with the pet’s regular veterinarian. There’s also the option of seeing an urgent care practitioner, which does not require an appointment.

Q: Whether for people or for animals, medical care can be expensive. Plus there’s very often a long wait when you go to an ER. Why is the wait so long?

Ans: Patients are assessed rapidly when they arrive. Those that have the most urgent need get tended to first, even if other patients have been waiting.

Our ER has been extremely busy, so we want to help pet owners understand that we are committed to providing the best care. Right now, the emergency service is not seeing pets with a problem that is not urgent because of the number of pets with life-threatening conditions. For example, ear infections, urinary tract infections, blocked anal glands, and itchy skin, while uncomfortable for the pet, can probably wait till the next day to be seen by a primary care veterinarian.

We always welcome phone calls. We can’t make diagnoses over the phone, but we can help you decide whether to bring your pet in right away or wait another day.

The bottom line is that if you are worried about your pet, you should take it to be seen by a veterinarian.

Q: What is an urgent care practitioner?

Ans: The Veterinary Teaching Hospital will be opening a new urgent and convenient care service in mid September that sees cases without an appointment. This service will be specifically for concerns that do not require a specialist but that the owner does not wish to postpone until an appointment is available elsewhere. So it’s very similar to the convenient care clinics for people. Patients will be assessed and treated as indicated, then they will see their regular primary care veterinarian for any needed follow-up care.

If patients are assessed as having more complex conditions requiring advanced surgery, hospitalization, and/ or intensive care, the patient will be transferred to the emergency service at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Our urgent and convenient care service is located at the Veterinary Medicine South Clinic, 2100 S. Goodwin Ave. in Urbana, just across Hazelwood Drive from the main hospital at our college. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 6 pm. The phone number is 217-244-2555.