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What is an Emergency Vet?


What is an Emergency Vet?

By Dr. Jona Sun Jordan, 

In the dark of night when others are asleep emergency veterinarians and staff are the brave souls who stay awake to handle the next crisis. They are ready for patients bleeding, seizing, unconscious, or screaming – patients that can’t wait until morning. In short – emergency doctors and their staff are heroes.

Regular veterinarians can restrict their practice to small animals only, cats, birds, or horses only, surgery only, whatever the doctor decides. Not emergency veterinarians. Why not? Because it’s an EMERGENCY. 

All veterinarians swear an oath to protect animal health and welfare and prevent animal suffering. When a suffering patient is carried in the door we must step forward and do what we can, even if we are unfamiliar with the species. In days past that meant a frantic phone call for advice or do the best we could working in the dark. But in today’s Information Age it takes less than 30 seconds to find out what antibiotics to give a sugar glider. Learning new things is also a duty because our oath continues: “I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence”.

So why am I writing this letter? Because my patients are being turned away from emergency clinics.  One frantic client was 75 miles away and called several emergency hospitals as she drove towards my clinic. They all turned her away saying they were “uncomfortable” treating a ferret. Her pet died before she could get to me. Two emergency clinics refused a miniature pig that was bleeding from a dog bite. They were not being asked to treat a wild boar. This tiny little pig fit in a cat carrier. He calmly allowed me to clean, prep and stitch the wound without anesthesia -- which was lucky since I am a general practitioner and do not have staff ready to assist me on Sundays.

When the bat signal lights up the sky, Batman puts on his bat cape and comes to the rescue – he doesn’t say “Sorry Mayor, I’m not comfortable with Penguins, you’re on your own.” Any veterinarian who has graduated from veterinary medical school can stop the bleeding, stop the seizure, stitch the laceration, and stabilize the patient until they can be transferred to their regular veterinarian. And any emergency hospital with its doors open that would turn away a bleeding or unconscious patient should be ashamed to call itself an emergency hospital. Because emergency doctors and their staff are Heroes, and Heroes step up to the plate.

Dr. Jona Sun Jordan has been practicing veterinary medicine since 1985.