Wednesdays I work until 7 pm and am on call that evening. As we approach the busy season and I am not getting home until well after 8 or 9 some evenings I'm realizing that Wednesday might not be the best day for this. Look for me on Sundays starting this Sunday April, 3.
When troubles arise.
You wake up to the sound of your dog whining to go out and once you get her outside she has explosive diarrhea all over your yard. After silently thanking the intestinal gods for allowing your dog to make it outside you notice that there are bright red streaks in Cuddle's stool. You panic and think of all of the terrible things that might happen to your dog, carpet or night's sleep.
Here's where people take one of two paths. Some people wait it out, taking their dog outside every 2 or3 hours to paint the lawn and hoping that it doesn't become too serious before morning. They may look up a few things online and maybe they find some good information and then again maybe they find some pretty terrible information. Meanwhile that person's canine companion is losing electrolytes, protein and precious fluid every few hours.The person is losing sleep and stressing about the health of their beloved pet.
The other type of person picks up the telephone and dials the number to their veterinarian's office or a local emergency clinic. Once they get a veterinarian on the phone a series of questions will be asked by the vet and the owner and vet will decide if the pet should be seen or if it can wait until morning.
Here's the part that many people don't seem to believe. The people who wait it out and suffer through a night with their dog, they drive me (and vets like me) crazy. I want to be on call. I don't have to be on call. If I weren't on call other area vet clinics would be on call for us or someone would open a 24 hour facility near us. I'm on call because I actually want to be there at 3 in the morning for my clients and their pets. I might groan a bit when my pager or cell phone goes off after midnight but by the time I'm on the phone with someone having a problem I'm ready to go. It's nice when I can solve a person's problem over the phone but going in after hours isn't a bother either. In fact, being available to my clients after hours is one of my favorite parts of my job. I love taking in a patient who is having a really hard time, making them more comfortable and then getting them set up for the following day. After the work is done; I still have paperwork to finish up, a chart to fill out and a treatment sheet to plan. I sit in our treatment area to write up my charts then before I take a quick walk around and visit with all of the hospitalized patients for a bit. Those are the moments that remind me why I do this.
So please if you are up worrying about your pet don't hesitate to call your vet. The call is free and you might just need to hear someone who deals with these sort of things professionally to tell you it's all going to be ok.
Your dog has been sick for awhile, or maybe your dog has just recently developed a problem but it seems to be really bad. Your veterinarian mentions that you might want to see someone who has specialized in the area of medicine that your pet's problem would fall under.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes dozens of medical specialties from surgery and medicine to ophthalmology and nutrition. Veterinarians who choose to specialize have typically completed a one year internship after graduation. This exposes them to the various aspects of specialty practice and gives them a chance to get some experience in those situations. They also work incredibly long hours for very little pay. Some specialists haven't done an internship and come out of private practice. Veterinarians wishing to specialize have to complete an approved residency program in the field that they want to specialize in. Most of the approved programs are three years long and take place in large specialty hospitals such as those found at colleges of veterinary medicine or in large cities. During their residency a veterinarian will have to perform under the supervision of a veterinarian who has already achieved board certification in that field. They also will have to meet and discuss the latest articles in the scientific literature involving their discipline and may even have to publish a study of their own. They may be required to spend some time improving their skills in other areas of veterinary medicine as well. For example, surgeons have to spend some time in anesthesia, medicine and imaging (x rays, ultrasound and MRI) during their residency. At the end of the three years residents sit for a qualifying examination and if they pass then they are inducted into the college that represents their specific discipline.
In those three years these veterinarians focus all of their time and energy into becoming extremely proficient in one area of medicine. This experience enables them to make decisions and come up with treatment plans for injuries, illnesses or issues that your general practice veterinarian is unable to manage.
Your veterinarian isn't sending you to another vet because he or she doesn't know how to handle skin cases or replace a hip joint. They certainly aren't sending you to that person simply because they have better equipment or better diagnostic facilities. We recommend referral to specialists because often they are the best tool for controlling the problem we are facing. My goal as a veterinarian is to provide you and your pet with the absolute best veterinary service available. Sometimes that means bringing in someone with more expertise than me.