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IMPORTANT WARNING: Plan for Long Emergency Pet Medical Care Wait Times

Long emergency waits

With special thanks to Belinda's roommate, Eliza Loovis, and Shelby Stone.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting life in many unusual ways than we can count. We wanted to alert you that emergency pet medical care wait times are averaging TWELVE HOURS. Additionally, it’s common to be redirected to a different emergency room as the closest reached max patient capacity. What to do? We’ve got suggestions to plan for your next pet medical emergency.

Have a Plan A, B, C, and More

We are all so grateful for the vet clinics. Our pets couldn’t live their best lives without their help. By planning for emergency pet medical care, you're helping the vet clinics help your precious babies. Here’s some ideas:

Plan A and B
  • Stay calm and be kind to all pet medical care staff. Everyone will have a better experience that way! 
  • Talk to your regular vet about how they're handing routine, urgent, and emergency appointments during regular business hours. 
  • Make a list of ALL the local vets and ER's, their addresses, phone numbers, hours, capabilities, ask if they are taking new patients, which species they treat, etc. Keep that list on your fridge or somewhere easily accessible.
  • Keep hard or electronic copies of your pets’ medical records readily available. So, if you use a vet that's not your normal one, the staff will have access to their entire medical history.
  • Have a pet first aid kit in your home. Make sure to include supplies for each species.
  • Regularly take species-specific pet first aid classes. In addition, many rescues and humane societies offer virtual and in-person courses.
  • Many rescues, such as Rocky Mountain House Rabbit Rescue, have volunteers with extensive medical training you can call 24/7 for medical advice and support.
  • Have your vet prescribe supplies to help you care for your pet. For instance, after our vet trained me in administering subcutaneous fluids, he sent us home with IV bags and needles. So if our elderly cats are dehydrated or our rabbits are suffering from GI stasis, we are prepared.

Kimberly Kelly said, “Emergencies, by their nature, are unpredictable. Please don't do what I did -especially with the additional restrictions/difficulties of COVID - and try to figure that out as it's unfolding and/or while you're driving.”

What's the Cause?

Why is it so hard to get urgent and emergency medical care for our pets? According to and The National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • Many clinics are still playing catch up with patients needing wellness exams that haven’t been seen in over a year. 
  • Pet medical care teams still have staff shortages due to childcare or illness.
Pet undergoing surgery

What Prompted This Blog?

We recently found out our Social Media Manager, Shelby, and one of our former colleagues, Eliza, had unusual experiences getting emergency pet care. 

Shelby’s & Desota’s Story

It was a typical day at the Mile High Menagerie. Except for Desota, the rescued European Doberman Pinscher had been puking for 6 hours. So, off to the emergency vet, they went at 8 PM. Unfortunately, when they arrived at the regular ER they use, there was a FIVE-HOUR wait for patients to get in a room due to staffing shortages. So, the staff gave Shelby a list of other ERs within 10 miles and told them to call and see who had the shortest wait time.

The good news is they got in at another emergency room, and five hours later, Desota headed home after receiving IV fluids and anti-nausea meds. The staff told Shelby and her husband to call the ER if Desota was still vomiting tomorrow. 

She was still vomiting tomorrow, so back to the emergency vet Desota went! This time they took X-rays, did bloodwork, etc. Potential diagnoses were a super sensitive tummy, pancreatitis, or an obstruction.

If you guessed obstruction, you won! The culprit was a mini-Kong toy missing for MONTHS!!! Shelby said, “Either Roscoe, her Min Pin brother, buried it, and she just now found it, or it's been bouncing around her stomach until it finally plinkoed to the no-no zone. Either way... it had to go.”

Roscoe and Desota

Desota and her brother, Roscoe                            

Fortunately, Desota didn’t have complications during surgery and made a full recovery. Understandably so, the ER clinic fell in love with her and wanted to keep her as the surgery room mascot. We can't blame them (see below). Also, Shelby sold her left kidney and right arm to pay for the surgery 🤦‍♀️.


Photo credits: Shelby Stone

Eliza’s and Sunny’s Story

Sunny is a 10ish-year-old rescued Australian Cattle Dog mix Eliza's family adopted three years ago. Unfortunately, she had severely infected teeth issues when she arrived at her furever home. Still, Sunny has been in good health since receiving proper dental care. 

Sunny guarding her fluffle

Sunny guarding her fluffle

Sunny ready to hike

Sunny ready to hike

Photo credits: Eliza Loovis

One recent evening, Sunny started stumbling all over the place right before bedtime. The first thing Eliza suspected was Sunny was having a stroke. Eliza at once headed to the pet ER they usually use. Unfortunately, they already had a waiting list and couldn’t accept more patients. Hence, the ER clinic referred her to a different facility. Eliza instantly took her to the next ER…only to find out they weren’t accepting any more patients either! So, she called four more pet ERs with the same result. By this time, it was 6 AM, and their regular vet opened at 7 AM. Eliza took Sunny over there when the doors opened, and they got her in right away. Fortunately, Sunny didn’t have a stroke. Instead, the vet discovered she had a vestibular disease episode, common in senior dogs (our Max suffered from them too). While Sunny is almost 100%, it was an incredibly stressful and scary night for their family.

We're all ears graphic

If you’ve got other planning tips or a pet medical emergency story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please comment on our socials or email

DISCLAIMER: The links and information are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Small Pet Select of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

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