Sunday, June 17, 2012

Taking Your Dog to The Vet - When it is It Unnecessary?

Veterinary clinics receive calls from people every day asking whether or not their dog their dog needs to come into the emergency room. Not only does it determine whether it’s time to hit the road, but it can also mean the difference between a regular office visit and much pricier ER fees. Ultimately it is the owner who must make the decision, but in times of panic some owners just don’t know what to do.

Most emergency situations are obvious: trauma from being hit by a car, severe bleeding, seizures, and passing out are, among others, classic signs that something is very wrong.. But there are numerous situations that don’t require emergency care which you can either treat at home or wait until normal visit hours to examine with your vet.  (Keep in mind, wowever, that it’s time to go to the ER if the situation changes or if the pet develops more signs or worsens)

Here are some of those non-emergency situations that can wait until morning:

Lumps and bumps - If you are petting your dog and feel a lump that you haven't noticed before, you don't need to immediately go to the veterinarian.  If it isn't bothering the pet, you can wait and see if it gets larger. Contact your vet the following day so it can be noted in your dog's record.  If the lump grows or changes, diagnosis may require bloodwork, biopsy and/or x-rays. If the lump turns out to be benign (harmless), removal costs can range around $300 to $500.  If it is not benign, diagnosis and treatment can exceed $1,000.

Bad breath and loose or missing teeth - As long as your dog is still eating and drinking, you can wait to contact your veterinarian to make an appointment for an oral examination and tooth cleaning.  If you don't have pet insurance, be prepared for hefty costs. Dental cleaning, anesthesia, x-rays and medication can be around $500. This is one price that it’s a good idea to pay, though; neglected teeth can lead to serious diseases, some of which can be fatal.

Small tongue or mouth lacerations - Most people notice this when their dog’s saliva is tinged with pink or the water in their dog's water bowl has a slight pink color.  Dogs can easily give themselves minor scrapes and cuts in soft mouth and gum tissue and the majority of wounds in the mouth heal quickly.  If there is no active bleeding and your dog can eat and drink, you can wait to see the vet.  In the meantime, put some ice cubes in their water. Cold can help constrict blood vessels and therefore reduce bleeding.

Dirty, smelly ears - Typically you can wait to resolve this condition. Even if your dog is shaking his head a little, dirty ears are almost never a serious issue. Clean the outside part of the ear with a cotton ball or Q-tip but be sure not to insert a cotton swab into the ear. The rigid stick can damage or puncture a fragile eardrum and if there is an infection, swabs can hurt.  Avoid using any medication until you speak to your veterinarian, especially medication formulated for humans. Treatment for ear problems typically costs $200 to $250 for ear swabs, cultures, cleaning and medication.

Toenail torn or bleeding - If your dog will let you, try to examine the nail closely. Sometimes the nail tip has fallen off or just needs to be slightly pulled. If the nail was broken or shredded, there can be a significant amount of bleeding. Use a styptic pen or powder to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Place a bandage around the foot, covering the nail, and contact your veterinarian the following day.

Remember to trust your instincts—many a dog has been saved when their owner had a hunch. Most of the time, though, you can tell when a trip to the doctor isn’t necessary. I hope this helps you to determine whether an injury is a real emergency situation.

Until next time,

Dr. Jon

P.S.  Pet insurance is a lot more affordable than you might think.  In fact, some comprehensive plans cost less than a dollar a day.  This health care coverage can help cover the costs of emergency care and regular well care.  To learn more, go to:

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