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Pet Emergencies: How To Spot Them & Where To Go

Jun 26, 2017 05:21PM ● Published by Kevin

Gallery: Cape Pets: Pet Emergencies - July/August 2017 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

Until human beings learn to speak Great Danish, Pekinese, Guinea Pig Latin or the Siamese dialect of a cat, we must rely on our powers of observation to determine when our pets are in pain or otherwise having a medical crisis.

That can be difficult at times, says veterinarian Lisa Monte, a partner in Vizcaya-Prado Veterinary Hospital in Cape Coral. Prey animals such as birds and rabbits often instinctively hide their symptoms in order not to show weakness.

Since we’re human, not animal, we may not recognize serious symptoms that we don’t share. And just like the person who goes to the emergency room with chest pains and finds out she has heartburn, we may be reluctant to go to the expense of seeking emergency care only to find out the situation was not an emergency. However, the woman with heartburn knows that in spite of the cost and perhaps embarrassment, it’s still better to be safe than sorry―and the same goes for our pets.

Fortunately, emergency care has become somewhat easier to obtain in Southwest Florida in recent years. Many veterinarians are offering extended hours and even 24-hour service. And among other options, there are full-service hospitals now in the area. No matter what the outcome, seeking emergency pet care can be emotionally as well as financially trying.

About two years ago, North Fort Myers resident Tanya Soholt noticed one of her cats exhibiting a danger sign: the inability to urinate. She took the feline to an emergency veterinarian and learned he needed surgery. She was required to make a $2,500 deposit toward treatment and her cat didn’t survive the operation. About $1,000 was refunded, she says, “but it really made me think about the whole process.”

Soholt’s regular veterinary office, Vizcaya-Prado Veterinary Hospital in Cape Coral, has since extended its hours and become available for emergency care. She’s happy about that development, she says, since she has a relationship with its doctors and feels more secure about seeking emergency care there.

To be prepared in case of emergency, check with your regular veterinarian for a recommendation if something happens to your pet after hours. If you will need to visit a clinic for the first time, find out what personnel are onsite or on call at various times and what initial charges will be.

So when is it an emergency? Dr. Monte of Vizcaya-Prado outlines indications that your pet might be in an emergency situation:

  • A cat that is unable to urinate or straining to do so.
  • A large dog that is bloated and belching.
  • Any animal that collapses or is weak and pale.
  • Any animal having trouble breathing, profusely vomiting, has bloody diarrhea or a broken limb.
  • Any animal that in the owner’s opinion is “just not acting right.” This may include more subtle changes in birds, rabbits or other prey animals.

Monte stressed that these are just general guidelines. Owners know their pets best. When in doubt, call the vet.

Written by Dayna Harpster, a writer, editor and accredited public relations professional who lives in Southwest Florida.

Where to get emergency pet care

  • Animal ER of Southwest Florida, Cape Coral. 239-673-7426,
  • Florida Veterinary Referral Center & 24-Hour Emergency Critical Care, Estero. 239-992-8878,
  • Southwest Florida Veterinary Specialists & 24-Hour Emergency Hospital, Bonita Springs. 239-992-8387,
  • Specialized Veterinary Services, Fort Myers. 239-947-0588,
  • Vizcaya-Prado Veterinary Hospital, Cape Coral. 239-574-2868, 

Should you get pet insurance?

Pete Cangialosi of Estero and his wife, Judy, have always had two cats. Not long ago, both cats had health crises and the bill for each topped $1,000. But Cangialosi never considered pet insurance. Until those situations, the costs for their care had been minimal.

Liz Kellar of Naples has two West Highland white terriers. One developed an autoimmune disease that eluded diagnosis for months, and in spite of a spinal tap and MRI which Kellar says “cost thousands.”

Dr. Lisa Monte of Vizcaya-Prado Veterinary Hospital says that insurance can be a good idea, “but you really have to do your research on the companies,” she says. “Sometimes they have limits for diagnoses, like foreign body surgery especially.” 

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