Help! The vet is closed!

There are so many times when, as a dog owner, you rush to Google to find out if your puppy is in danger. Some will say not to worry; others will say to keep an eye. Almost every article ends with, “call your vet now,” or, “take your dog to the vet immediately.”

You should never delay a vet call or visit if you can help it, but in reality, you can’t always follow this advice! What do you do when you can’t call – let alone visit – your vet’s office? In this article, I’m giving general advice based on my personal experiences. I am not a veterinarian, nor do I have one helping me with this article.

Determine severity to the best of your ability.

Let’s say your dog ate something they shouldn’t. Was it known to be toxic, or is your dog allergic? These are questions to consider when trying to figure out how severe the problem is. If you don’t know, try a quick Google search, but be prepared for vague answers and lots of “ask your vet.”

If it is low-risk, and your dog is acting normal, keep an eye on them and call your vet when they open. I’ve been advised to wait every single time my dogs swallowed a foreign object; usually they throw it up or poop it out themselves, if it is small enough. Yes, I’ve been told this every time I’ve called or chatted with a vet, including when Athena ate a turkey bone.

Especially with cases of vomiting or diarrhea, they often resolve themselves much like in humans. By waiting, you can see if it is a severe problem or not. Keep them on a bland diet is always the advice I’m given here; plain boiled chicken and rice will help settle a dog’s stomach.

If it seems very severe, you will need to contact an emergency vet, since they are usually open when regular vets are not (like evenings and weekends). Of course, it is best to contact one you can actually visit if you need to. However, if you can find one that will take your call, give it a shot even if they’re far away.

Unfortunately, you can’t always see an emergency vet.

Yes, this has happened to me. I live in a rural area, so we don’t have an emergency vet. In a pinch, there is one an hour away, but even then they have to be open! What can you do if there is nowhere to go?

If you determine from your Googling that you absolutely need immediate assistance, there are now several online vet services that will help you 24/7 – for a fee. I won’t endorse any specific ones here, but there are plenty that offer a free or low-cost trial. This way, you can use them in a pinch without breaking the bank and decide if you like them. Just remember to cancel the trial before you get charged (unless you want to keep using it)!

The reason this is better than Googling is that they have real vets on standby to answer your specific question. Sometimes you can’t find what to do with a swallowed object or matching symptoms through Google; at least in my experience, your situation is often more unique than that!

There are also some help lines you can call. Especially in the case of poisoning, these are helpful resources to have! ASPCA charges $75 to get on the line with someone, while PPH charges $59. These are of course small fees when you consider the situation life or death, but I thought I should include it here as the fees could be a barrier to many.

The online vet might say to go to an in-person vet.

This is such a tough situation if you’ve come this far. Make absolutely sure that it can’t wait until your vet opens, but if they recommend it strongly, I’m sorry to say it’s time to travel.

Living in the American Midwest, I would have to travel three hours to the next nearest vet if the closest emergency vet was closed. However, it would be worth it to save my dog’s life! You have to make sure you do what is best for your dog.

You should get pet insurance.

Pet insurance is just like people insurance. You pay a monthly fee, and then they cover the cost of procedures, vet visits, etc. Honestly, it seems like a better deal than people insurance! I won’t recommend any specifically, since you have to find what works best for you.

However, I will say to get it sooner rather than later. Even if you find out that your dog has a chronic illness tomorrow, pet insurance often kicks in immediately and would cover more of your dog’s problems. You don’t want any pre-existing conditions to be on your pet’s record, since that can cause higher rates or less coverage.

I especially recommend this if you’re worried about surgeries in your dog’s future. They can cost thousands of dollars, and pet insurance has literally saved lives by making procedures more affordable!

Most importantly, stay calm.

This is the hardest advice to follow. Trust me, I know. Especially when I was new to having pets, I was worried about every single thing that happened. It doesn’t help that there is usually not much we can do, which is frustrating. But remember: your anxiety will rub off on your dog and make them feel even worse if they are already sick.

No matter what you have to do, whether it be waiting for your vet to open or rushing to the emergency vet, remember to stay as calm as you can. Take a deep breath, and follow the advice of professionals, however you can get it. Your puppy will probably be okay!

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