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pet emergency
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pet emergency

Pet Owner FAQs

Emergency Care

If I suspect that my pet is in the midst of a medical emergency, should I call my family vet first?

It’s always a good idea to give your vet a call, but some may only have an answering service available after hours. If you believe it is an emergency, give us a call. Our knowledgeable staff members are always available to provide a recommendation. Or bring your pet immediately to Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies night or day. We will contact your vet as soon as possible to coordinate care.

How can I recognize a true emergency that won’t wait until morning?

Here are a few examples of medical emergencies for pets:

  • Your pet has been hit by a car or a blunt object or has fallen more than a few feet, especially if you suspect broken bones.
  • Your pet is unconscious, isn’t breathing, or you can’t find a heartbeat.
  • Your pet has difficulty breathing or has blue gums or a blue tongue.
  • Your pet has been vomiting or has had diarrhea for more than 24 hours, or if he or she is vomiting blood or has bloody diarrhea.
  • Your pet appears to be having a seizure.
  • Your pet is bleeding. Look for blood in his or her urine or feces or blood coming from eyes, nose or mouth.
  • You think your pet ingested something toxic, such as antifreeze, rat poison, household cleansers, or any kind of medication that wasn’t prescribed. Other things that are toxic to dogs include grapes, raisins, chocolate, and xylitol (found in sugar-free gum). It may also be an emergency if your pet swallowed a foreign object.
  • Your pet seems to be in extreme pain and is whining, shaking, or refusing to socialize.
  • Your pet can’t stand up, begins to bump into things, and seems disoriented, or is fainting or collapsing.
  • Your pet’s abdomen is swollen and hard to the touch—especially if that is combined with gagging and trying to vomit.
  • Your pet has been bitten by a snake that you suspect may be poisonous.
  • Your pet has sustained an eye injury or trauma to the eye.
  • Your pet appears to have heat stroke.
  • Your pet has sustained a penetrating wound like a bite or gunshot wound.
  • Your pet is in labor and has had unsuccessful contractions for more than one hour.
  • Your pet has a swollen face or hives, indicating an allergic reaction.
My dog is coughing, sneezing, or has other respiratory symptoms. Does this require immediate attention?

Respiratory symptoms such as coughing can result from many different things, including common pathogens (such as viruses or bacteria), environmental factors, or occasionally from something more serious (such as heart disease)

For mild respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, sneezing, and runny eyes/nose) and if your pet is otherwise healthy, it’s appropriate to monitor your pet at home and contact your veterinarian as needed.

Contact your vet or bring your pet in for evaluation if:

  • Symptoms are worsening or have not improved in several days (keeping in mind that dogs may continue to cough even after they’re feeling better).
  • The cough is causing significant problems such as vomiting.
  • Your pet has a loss of appetite.
  • Your pet is experiencing weakness or lethargy such that he or she isn’t engaging normally.
  • If your pet is experiencing labored breathing, we recommend seeing your primary care veterinarian as soon as possible or visiting the ER.

It’s especially important to see the veterinarian if these signs occur in a high-risk dog, including:

  • Very young or senior dogs
  • Pregnant dogs
  • Compromised immune system
  • Existing heart or respiratory disease
  • Brachycephalic (flatter-faced) breeds

Many respiratory illnesses can be highly contagious. If you bring your pet to your primary veterinarian or to our hospital with respiratory symptoms, we recommend calling from your car upon arrival. This limits contact with other pets and expedites the check-in process. Always contact our hospital or your primary veterinarian if you have concerns about the seriousness of your pet’s condition.

What can I expect if I bring my pet into Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies during an emergency?

There are usually four steps involved in our evaluation and treatment of emergency cases, including:

  • Check-in and initial assessment—A veterinary technician will evaluate and prioritize your pet’s care. We operate on a first-come, first-served basis, although critical cases will take priority if other patients are stable.
  • Exam and consultation—If your pet is in stable condition, we will move your pet into an exam room and get a medical history. An ER veterinarian on our emergency veterinary services team will examine your pet and will update you on progress. If x-rays or other tests are needed, we can complete those with your permission. Our emergency vet will discuss treatment recommendations with you and provide an itemized treatment plan. We will answer any questions you might have and proceed with treatment upon your approval.
  • Treatment—Depending upon the nature of the illness or injury, there may be either inpatient or outpatient options recommended. You may be recommended to one of our veterinary specialists or you may be able to pick up your pet in the morning and take them to your family vet for care during their normal office hours.
  • Admission to the Hospital—If needed (and upon your approval), your pet will be admitted to the animal hospital for care. This could result in further examination and treatment by one of our specialists in internal medicineveterinary surgery, or cardiology.

Specialty Services

What is a veterinary specialist?

A veterinary specialist has four years of undergraduate training and four years of veterinary school, like other veterinarians. They have also completed additional years of training in internships and residency programs, after graduating from veterinary school. Following their advanced training, they submit their credentials to a specific veterinary specialty school, such as the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM), or the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). Once preliminary criteria are met, the veterinarian must pass a rigorous examination to be known as a member or diplomate of that specialty and board-certified for their area of interest. Their achievement and advanced credentials as a specialist are similar to human medicine. The veterinary specialists at our vet hospital include veterinarians who specialize in acupuncture, cardiology, critical care, internal medicine, veterinary oncology, radiology (for diagnostic imaging), and surgery.

My pet is scheduled to come in for an evaluation by a specialist or for surgery. What do I need to know and bring with me?

Please bring the information that is critical to our treatment of your pet, including:

  • Your primary care veterinarian’s contact information so we can call and obtain complete medical records
  • Vaccine history, if known, including proof of most recent rabies vaccine
  • Radiographs (x-rays) and any lab results, if available or applicable
  • List of current medications, including any supplements taken
  • If your pet will be staying with us, please bring all prescribed medications in their original containers to your pet’s appointment
  • Information about current diet and food used
  • Travel history (within and outside of the United States)

All dogs are required to be on leashes and all cats must be in carriers when visiting Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies.

What can I bring for my pet to make him comfortable after surgery or if he or she will be hospitalized?

You can bring a small toy or blanket if you would like. We prefer that pets use the beds that we provide for sanitary purposes. You can also bring the food he or she usually eats, as long as the pet is not on a raw (BARF-type) diet.

Can I visit my pet during hospitalization?

Hospital visits are on a case-by-case basis and typically set up in advance, and typically for a short period. We understand that visiting your pet while they are away from home is something that every pet and their person wants. We will do everything possible to work with you, and please know that your pet’s health care is our top priority.

General Questions

How do you communicate with me when my pet is under your care?

Our veterinarians contact pet owners to discuss recommendations, diagnostics, and care plans. If a pet is staying in the hospital, pet owners also receive daily updates from doctors and staff/team members.

How do you communicate with my family veterinarian?

Our vet hospital sends all records and results to primary care veterinarians, as well as daily updates for patients that are staying in the hospital. This way your family veterinarian can remain in the loop regarding your pet’s care.

What are my payment options?

We will provide a cost estimate with the treatment/care plan. For surgical procedures and hospital stays, we require a deposit. Payment is expected at the time of service. We accept credit cards, cash, and Care Credit.

Do you have any pet health insurance that you recommend?

There are many pet health insurance companies and plans available. Most have a waiting period before coverage begins. You may want to discuss options with your family vet.

If my pet is hospitalized, when can I see him or her?

We ask for your assistance in following these guidelines to help us provide the best care to all patients in our care. We allow family members of our hospitalized patients to visit when possible, generally in small groups and set up in advance. 

  • It is most ideal to visit between treatment times. Please call before visiting to determine the best time to visit your family member. If your pet is receiving treatments at the time of your arrival, you may be asked to wait until these are completed.
  • All families are required to check in with our reception staff and be escorted to the treatment area or an exam room for their visit. We ask that all cell phones be switched to silent/vibrate mode while visiting in a patient ward area.
  • We request that visits are limited to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. Lengths of visits can be extended on a case-by-case basis.
  • For patients hospitalized in the isolation unit of our hospital, all visitors will be required to follow our recommended safety protocols to help maintain a safe environment for all patients.
  • Scenarios can arise that may temporarily require a pause in visiting. If this were ever to occur, our staff will reunite you with your pet as soon as they are able.
  • Hospitalized patient family members are not permitted to stay overnight but we do encourage phone calls any time you would like an update.
What can I expect when it is time to take my dog or cat home?

A member of our staff will call you to review instructions for pick up and at-home care. We will also recommend a follow-up visit with either one of our specialists or with your family veterinarian, depending upon what is most appropriate.