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Natural Disaster Planning for Pets

As pets have become a more important part of our family units, so has their safety and wellbeing. Yet, few of us are prepared for the event of a natural disaster. In order to make things a little easier, we’ve put together a few simple tips on how to protect your pets should your area be struck by a  hurricane, tornadoflood, or fire.

One important thing to note is that in all of these disaster scenarios it is safer to evacuate with your family and pets. However, keep in mind that boarding facilities, kennels, and animal shelters require that your pets have all their vaccinations up to date, or you might be turned away. Also, many emergency shelters do NOT accept pets for health and safety reasons, so pet-friendly shelters will fill up fast. 

Hurricanes

 

Although hurricanes have seasons (Jun.1-Nov.30 in the Atlantic and May15-Nov.30 in the Eastern Pacific), weather experts still have trouble predicting just how many storms regions will get each year and what their paths will be. Here’s what you can do:

Hurricane Preparation

  • Designate a hurricane-safe location that will accommodate your entire family, including pets. A windowless room nearest to the ground floor is recommended.
  • If you live in an area affected by hurricanes, get in the habit of doing “drills” with your family and pets during the off season to ensure they will all know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit and keep enough crates to hold each pet in the event of a storm in the designated area for each pet. Panic can give rise to out of the ordinary behaviors in pets and fast confinement will be required.
  • If you can evacuate, don’t leave your pets behind. Take proper pet identification and emergency kits for your pets as well as your family.

During a Hurricane

  • If your family is weathering the storm inside the home, make it to your “safe room” and crate your pet as soon as possible. If you can, place the crates under heavy, durable furniture.

After a Hurricane

  • Always be extra careful when going outdoors following a hurricane. Only exit the home after you and your family are certain the storm has passed.
  • Keep your pets secured at all times. Cats should remain in their carriers, and dogs on a leash.
  • Don’t allow your pets to go near water or other liquids on the ground; debris from the hurricane may have contaminated the area or live power lines may be laying in the water.
  • Keep everyone (including yourself) away from downed power lines.

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Tornadoes

Occurring at a moment’s notice, tornadoes can sweep through a neighborhood indiscriminately and wreak havoc in a short period. Here’s what you can do:

Tornado Preparation

  • Designate a tornado-safe location that will accommodate your entire family, including pets. A windowless room nearest to the ground floor is recommended.
  • If you live in an area affected by tornadoes, get in the habit of doing “drills” with your family and pets during mild weather to ensure they will all know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Stock your tornado-safe area with a pet emergency kit and keep crates in the designated area for each of your pets. Panic can give rise to out of the ordinary behaviors in pets and fast confinement will be required. 
  • Know where your pets’ hiding spots are, so you can grab them and take them to safety as quickly as possible. Limit their access to any unsafe spots it may be hard to get them out of.
  • If you can evacuate, don’t leave your pets behind. Take proper pet identification and emergency kits for your pets as well as for your family.

During a Tornado

  • If your family is weathering the storm inside the home, make it to your “safe room” and crate your pet as soon as possible. If you can, place the crates under heavy, durable furniture.

After a Tornado

  • Always be extra careful when going outdoors following a tornado. Only exit the home after you and your family are certain the storm has passed.
  • Keep your pets secured at all times. Cats should remain in their carriers, and dogs on a leash.
  • Don’t allow your pets to go near water or other liquids on the ground outside; debris from the tornado may have contaminated the area or live power lines may be laying in the water.
  • Keep everyone (including yourself) away from downed power lines.

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Floods

 

Flood conditions can also encroach rapidly and sometimes without much notice. Here’s what you can do:

Flood Preparation

  • If you live in an area affected by floods, get in the habit of doing “drills” with your family and pets to ensure they will all know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Know where your pets’ hiding spots are, so you can grab them and take them to safety as quickly as possible. Limit their access to any unsafe spots it may be hard to get your pets out of.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit and, if you can, evacuate with your pets.

During a Flood

  • If your family gets stuck in your home during a flood, move to the upper floors or into your attic. During sever flooding, such as what occurred in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, move onto your roof until help can arrive.
  • Keep your pets either on a leash or in a crate so that they do not run away in a panic.

After a Flood

  • Stay indoors until after the water has receded.
  • Don’t allow your pets to go near water or other liquids on the ground; in addition to debris and live power lines, the water may be contaminated with infectious diseases and parasites.
  • Keep everyone (including yourself) away from downed power lines.

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Fires

Wildfires can begin quickly and spread rapidly, especially during the driest seasons. Here’s what you can do:

Fire Preparation

  • If you live in an area affected by fires, get in the habit of doing “drills” with your family and pets to ensure they will all know what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Know where your pets’ hiding spots are so you can grab them and take them to safety as quickly as possible. Limit their access to any unsafe spots it may be hard to get your pets out of.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit and have a crate available so that you can evacuate with your pets as quickly as possible.

During a Fire

  • Wildfires move quickly but will often give you enough time to evacuate. Household items can be replaced, family and pets cannot.

After a Fire

  • Upon returning to your home be aware that wildfires may leave surrounding structures unstable and dangerous for wandering pets. Also, wild animals from the surrounding area may have been pushed into more residential areas, which pose a danger to your family and pets.
  • Keep your pets on a leash or in a crate.

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In an emergency situation, your family pets will need you more than ever. Take charge and be prepared. Here are some other great emergency preparation resources:

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Grape and Raisin Poisoning in Dogs

 

Can Dogs Eat Grapes?

Grape and raisin (dried grapes) toxicity is well documented in dogs.* Although the exact substance that causes the toxic reaction is not yet known, dogs should not eat grapes and raisins because even small amounts can prove to be fatally toxic for a dog.

Dogs of any age, breed, or gender may be affected. Grapes and raisins are bad for dogs because one of the most serious complications of grape/raisin toxicity is they can cause severe kidney damage leading to acute (sudden) kidney failure with lack of urine production (anuria). However, kidney failure is not seen in all dogs after ingestion of grapes or raisins, and again, the reason why some dogs are affected excessively, while others are not, is still being studied. 

Symptoms and Types

Grape and raisin poisoning will usually cause dogs to develop some combination of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea – often within a few hours of ingestion. Vomit and fecal contents material may contain pieces of grapes or raisin.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy, weakness, unusual quietness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Oliguria (passing only a small amount of urine)
  • Anuria (complete cessation of urine)
  • Foul breath
  • Oral ulcers
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

 

Causes

Grape and/or raisin ingestion – even small amounts can be toxic for some dogs while other dogs can ingest relatively large amounts without developing obvious symptoms. The toxic agent has not yet been identified but appears to be associated with the flesh of the fruit. In other words, peeled and/or seedless grapes are still toxic.

Immediate Treatment

This is an emergency, needing immediate treatment. If you are positive that your dog ingested grapes or raisins within the last two hours, you will need to induce vomiting as soon as possible, before all the toxins in the fruit can be absorbed.

However, do not induce vomiting if your dog is:

  • Unconscious
  • Is having trouble breathing
  • Is exhibiting signs of serious distress or shock
  • Or if you are unsure of what your dog may have eaten. 

If your dog has already vomited, do not try to force more vomiting. Call your veterinarian for advice. If he or she recommends that you induce vomiting at home, use the following method:

  • If the dog has not eaten within the last two hours, offer him a small meal. This makes it more likely that the dog will vomit but is not essential if the dog is uninterested in food. 
  • Measure 1 milliliter (ml) of 3% hydrogen peroxide per pound of the dog’s weight, using either a syringe (no needle) or teaspoon (one teaspoon is approximately five ml). The maximum amount of hydrogen peroxide to be given at any one time is 45 ml, even if a dog weighs over 45 pounds. 
  • Squirt the hydrogen peroxide into the back of the dog’s mouth using a syringe (no needle) or turkey baster.
  • If vomiting does not take place within fifteen minutes of the first administration, you may try again, using the same amount. This method should not be used more than two times, spaced apart at fifteen minute intervals.

If your dog has not vomited after the second dose of hydrogen peroxide, do not use it, or anything further, to try to induce vomiting. Do not use anything stronger than hydrogen peroxide without first talking to your veterinarian. 

Whether your dog vomits or not, after the initial care, you must rush him to a veterinary facility immediately. Your veterinarian may need to perform a gastric lavage and/or administer activated charcoal to deal with any toxin that remains in your dog’s stomach, as well as institute treatment to protect your dog’s kidneys.

prognosis

The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance

renal failure

The failure of the kidneys to perform their proper functions

urinalysis

An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness

lavage

Irritating tissue with a great deal of some type of fluid

gastric

Anything having to do with the stomach

anuria

The lack of production of urine in an animal’s body.

euthanasia

Inducing death on an animal or putting them to sleep

acute

Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.

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What to Do if Your Dog is Hit by a Car

By Mindy Cohan, VMD

Emergency situations require quick thinking and action. Witnessing your dog being struck by a car is a harrowing experience that can be mitigated by preparedness. Since both you and your dog are likely to be in states of shock, having a plan of action will foster the wellbeing of all involved. Here, learn what to do if your dog is hit by a car and how to prevent it from happening again.

How to Get an Injured Dog to the Vet

Because the majority of vehicular accidents involving dogs take place in a roadway, the first critical step is to move the pet and yourself to a safe location. If there are bystanders, ask them to safely stop traffic and to assist you if you are unable to carry your dog.

In a panicked state, pet parents easily forget that their dog is capable of lashing out when it is in pain and distressed. A makeshift muzzle is critical for you to stay safe and to be available to care for your injured dog. Items such as belts, socks, leashes, scarves, shoe laces and shirt sleeves can be temporarily secured around your dog’s muzzle. If your dog appears to have difficulty breathing, do not use a muzzle. Instead, use a blanket to wrap your dog, trying to avoid pressure on injured areas and keep your face away from its mouth.

When it comes to moving an injured pet, small and medium sized dogs can be carefully lifted and carried. Wrapping a small dog in a blanket or towel will provide warmth and security. Larger dogs pose a greater challenge in terms of moving out of the roadway and transferring to a vehicle. A sturdy blanket is an ideal multipurpose tool. A blanket can be used as a sling for dogs with leg injuries, yet able to walk. A blanket can also be used as a stretcher for severely injured or weakened dogs.

Once your pet has been situated in a transport vehicle, call the nearest veterinary hospital to notify them of the situation and your estimated time of arrival. You can provide helpful information over the phone such as whether your dog appears to have a specific injury, any sites of bleeding, difficulty breathing, and whether you suspect head trauma has occurred. By knowing you are en route, the veterinary team can be prepared to help transfer your dog into the hospital and can assemble emergency equipment such as intravenous catheters and fluids, x-ray machines, oxygen masks and pain medications.

Even if you believe your dog has not sustained a major injury as a result from being hit by a car, it is crucial that he or she sees a veterinarian as soon as possible.

“Even if there are no serious external injuries, there can be a variety of internal injuries following trauma that may be difficult to detect just by looking at your dog,” says Dr. Garret Pachtinger of the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Levittown, Penn. “Following a hit-by-car event, it is recommended to contact your primary care veterinarian or the nearest veterinary emergency service for evaluation as soon as possible.”

Treating Car-Related Injuries in Dogs

Upon arrival, a veterinarian will assess your dog’s injuries and discuss a treatment plan with you. Some of the common problems caused by a vehicular accident include fractured bones, lacerations and degloving injuries to skin (in which skin and tissue are separated from deeper tissue layers), head trauma, ruptured bladder, internal bleeding, and injuries to the chest and lungs which result in difficulty breathing.

Depending on your dog’s injuries, he or she may require surgery for orthopedic and soft tissue trauma, treatment of shock, removal of air from within the chest cavity (pneumothorax), and treatment of head injuries. The veterinarian will discuss the recommended medical care, the estimated cost of treatment, and prognosis.

Many injuries sustained after vehicular trauma are life threatening, yet treatable with an excellent prognosis. Other injuries, such as those to the head or spine, can result in lifelong problems such as seizures, behavioral changes and paralysis. Injuries such as bone fractures or a dislocated hip will require surgery and many of these dogs can benefit from rehabilitative care, such as underwater treadmill exercises.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Being Hit by a Car

Sadly, the majority of dogs do not survive the trauma of being hit by a car. If your dog is lucky enough to not sustain life-ending injuries, his or her survival is enhanced by a calm and prepared parent. Of course, the best plan for not losing a dog to a horrific accident is taking every possible precaution to avoid your dog coming into contact with a motor vehicle.

Steps for preventing your dog from being hit by a car include:

  • Teach “sit” and “wait” at every exit door of the house and street curb to avoid your dog bolting into the street.
  • Never leave a dog unattended in a yard.
  • Be alert when walking your dog close to a street, especially if using an extendible leash.
  • Do not drive with the car window open wide enough to allow for a dog to jump out.
  • Keep pets secured in a harness or crate while driving in case you are in an accident.
  • Driveway accidents occur more often than people realize. Always be sure pets are safe before backing out of your driveway.

Learn more about common pet emergencies your dog might experience

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Suffocation in Dogs

(Hypoxia)

Suffocation, or hypoxia, occurs when the lungs do not get a sufficient amount of oxygen to pass on to the body’s tissues.

What Causes Suffocation?

There are a few common emergencies that can cause a dog to suffocate:

  1. Choking due to an object or food article lodging in the throat
  2. Lung injury
  3. Drowning
  4. Being trapped in spaces lacking air, boxes, cupboards, etc.
  5. Carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from the dog being kept in unventilated spaces, such as car trunks, garages with a car running, in basements or laundry rooms with fuel burning appliances, and in rooms with fireplaces or wood burning stoves
  6. Being trapped in a burning building
  7. Inhalation of toxic gases low in oxygen, such as smoke and fumes from gasoline, propane, refrigerants, solvents, etc.

What are the Signs of Suffocation?

The first sign of suffocation is extreme anxiety, gasping, or straining to get a breath with the head and neck extended. If oxygen continues to be scarce, the dog will lose consciousness.

A state of cyanosis may be seen, where the tongue and the mucous membranes turn blue in color. In some cases, when suffocation is due to carbon monoxide poisoning, the tongue and mucous membranes may become cherry red in color.

What is the Treatment for Suffocation?

When a dog suddenly gasps or struggles to breathe, check to see if a foreign object is lodged in the throat. Perform the Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge the foreign object, if this is the case. If the dog is suffocating due to other reasons, it is essential to get the dog breathing freely again.

If you find that the dog is not breathing, or is breathing shallowly, provide artificial respiration and take the dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian so that ventilator support can be provided. Suffocation from carbon monoxide poisoning normally happens when smoke or fumes are inhaled. Oxygen in large quantities, given immediately, will help the dog to breath and regain consciousness.

If the dog has an open lung injury due to a chest wound, pinch the skin together over the wound to close it. Do this with the help of a bandage wrapped around the chest and immediately take the dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian.

A dog suffering from suffocation can be saved with timely help and treatment.

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The High-Stakes Life of an ER Vet: A First-Hand Account

By Geoff Williams

Gunshot wounds. Victims of a hit-and-run. An emergency splenectomy. Dr. Jessica Brownfield has seen it all.

And when it’s over, if all goes well, Brownfield might get a hug from grateful family members—or a lick and wag of the tail from her patients.

Emergency veterinarians tend to work under the radar compared to their human doctor counterparts operating in an ER for people. You rarely see a news reporter with a camera crew outside a veterinary hospital, reporting on an ill celebrity canine, like they do at human hospitals. There is no animal hospital TV drama the way NBC had with ER and ABC has with Grey’s Anatomy. And yet vets who work in the emergency rooms at animal hospitals often deal with as much drama, humor and pathos as any other emergency doctor.

Brownfield works at Grady Veterinary Hospital, one of three 24-hour hospitals in Cincinnati, Ohio, but on a recent Friday night, when she was shadowed by this writer, she could have been any ER veterinarian at any 24-hour animal hospital in the country. She was at the start of a 12-hour shift that would go from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Being an animal ER doc can be a highly satisfying profession, but it can be grueling, too. It isn’t only that you’re working to try and save a pet’s life, but you’re dealing with high-strung pet owners and the financial pressures that come with trying to help your pet without decimating the bank account.

On this particular evening, Brownfield is examining Kingston, a six-month-old chocolate Labrador Retriever who has bite wounds on at least two legs. He was attacked by another dog—his own mom.

“It feels like some tissue has come out,” Brownfield says to Dr. Ashley Barnett, a veterinarian who just graduated from veterinary school.

Moments later, Barnett is looking at Charlie, who is probably an Australian kettle dog mix, guesses a nearby vet tech.

“The owner thinks a chicken bone might be stuck on the roof of his mouth,” Barnett explains while a vet tech and a handler hold Charlie down.

Nearby, a handler is looking at a guinea pig with possible mites while several animals sleepily watch from cages, including a three-legged cat that will soon be seeing an oncologist, and a French Bull Dog who is receiving fluids after a bout of vomiting and diarrhea.

“We’ll do some X-rays on Kingston,” Brownfield says to a vet tech, before heading out to meet with his owners, a married couple, Kari and Kristin Hageback, 24 and 29 respectively. Kari works in construction, and Kristin is a nurse aide. While the hospital gets people from Northern Kentucky and Indiana routinely coming in at night, when other veterinary centers are closed, the Hagebacks are from Cincinnati.

“They were wrestling over something. I’m not sure what it was over,” Kari says, of Kingston and his mother, Knox (short for Knoxville).

Kristin thinks the 10 or 20-second wrestling match may have been due to the dogs leaving the room at the same time, and that Knox wanted to be first.

Knox gave birth to Kingston in this exam room, the Hagebecks says. They brought Knox here when she was having a difficult labor. “They should name this room after us,” Kristin says.

In any case, the Hagebecks were lucky. Kingston didn’t have any broken bone, and after treating his wounds, Brownfield determined he would be fine and could go home. In another room, another family isn’t so fortunate. They brought in a German Shepherd with advanced cancer and a tumor in his eye. Unfortunately, that dog didn’t make it home. And that’s one of the hardest parts of the job for Brownfield and the rest of the staff—having to break the bad news.

But ER veterinarians can’t let their emotions run amok, and minutes later, Brownfield is treating Sheera, a cat with possible constipation. But she is 14 years old, “a 2002 model,” Brownfield quips, and she is a little concerned that Sheera might have kidney disease. Linda Grundei, a retired teacher, who brought Sheera in with her daughter, Kristin Blair, who works in childcare, elected to let her cat stay overnight for an enema, with the plan that Sheera would have a follow-up visit with her regular veterinarian.

Some owners, of course, can’t afford to let their pets stay overnight. This happens a fair amount, Brownfield says. And pet owners don’t always seem to understand that veterinary hospitals need to be paid in order to stay in business. “We don’t receive government funding to keep the doors open and lights on when owners cannot pay,” she explains.

Brownfield says she once had a couple bring in a dog that had been in labor for two days.

“This is way too long for a dog,” Brownfield says. “She was very sick with a fever, vomiting and had started having seizures, likely because she was becoming septic. The owners didn’t have the funds for an emergency C-section and hospitalization and were furious that we required money up front for hospitalization and surgery. They thought since we were an ER, we were required to treat their pet regardless of financial ability like human medicine.”

“The man got in my face, screaming obscenities and calling me names, telling me I don’t care about animals,” Brownfield says.

The incident ended with the man refusing to leave and refusing to let anyone else come to the hospital, by blocking the entrance of the parking lot with his car. It was one of the few times the hospital had to call in the police.

But along with those downs, the job has its share of ups. Brownfield says that her favorite ER surgery is gastric volvulus and dilatation surgery, also known as GDV. It fixes a sometimes-fatal problem called bloat, which many dog owners fear since the stomach literally flips inside the dog.

But it’s her favorite surgery, and while that may sound odd with such a serious condition, if things work out, there’s nothing like the feeling that comes with saving a family pet.

 “You can take a dying dog and make him better so quickly. It’s very rewarding,” Brownfield says.

Even though Brownfield is only 29, she really has seen it all. She’s treated pets that have fallen several stories out of windows, gotten sick from ingesting marijuana and anti-freeze, and has helped nurse dogs and cats back to health from abuse and starvation cases. She has also encountered intoxicated pet owners bring their pets to the animal hospital and some owners who were probably under the influence of something stronger.

But most of the people who bring their pets in, whether in the middle of the day or the dead of night, are “wonderful, nice people,” Brownfield says. Still, when it comes to the ER, “there are sad stories, and it can be fun and exciting. You never really know what you’re going to get.”

Posted on

The High-Stakes Life of an ER Vet: A First-Hand Account

By Geoff Williams

Gunshot wounds. Victims of a hit-and-run. An emergency splenectomy. Dr. Jessica Brownfield has seen it all.

And when it’s over, if all goes well, Brownfield might get a hug from grateful family members—or a lick and wag of the tail from her patients.

Emergency veterinarians tend to work under the radar compared to their human doctor counterparts operating in an ER for people. You rarely see a news reporter with a camera crew outside a veterinary hospital, reporting on an ill celebrity canine, like they do at human hospitals. There is no animal hospital TV drama the way NBC had with ER and ABC has with Grey’s Anatomy. And yet vets who work in the emergency rooms at animal hospitals often deal with as much drama, humor and pathos as any other emergency doctor.

Brownfield works at Grady Veterinary Hospital, one of three 24-hour hospitals in Cincinnati, Ohio, but on a recent Friday night, when she was shadowed by this writer, she could have been any ER veterinarian at any 24-hour animal hospital in the country. She was at the start of a 12-hour shift that would go from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Being an animal ER doc can be a highly satisfying profession, but it can be grueling, too. It isn’t only that you’re working to try and save a pet’s life, but you’re dealing with high-strung pet owners and the financial pressures that come with trying to help your pet without decimating the bank account.

On this particular evening, Brownfield is examining Kingston, a six-month-old chocolate Labrador Retriever who has bite wounds on at least two legs. He was attacked by another dog—his own mom.

“It feels like some tissue has come out,” Brownfield says to Dr. Ashley Barnett, a veterinarian who just graduated from veterinary school.

Moments later, Barnett is looking at Charlie, who is probably an Australian kettle dog mix, guesses a nearby vet tech.

“The owner thinks a chicken bone might be stuck on the roof of his mouth,” Barnett explains while a vet tech and a handler hold Charlie down.

Nearby, a handler is looking at a guinea pig with possible mites while several animals sleepily watch from cages, including a three-legged cat that will soon be seeing an oncologist, and a French Bull Dog who is receiving fluids after a bout of vomiting and diarrhea.

“We’ll do some X-rays on Kingston,” Brownfield says to a vet tech, before heading out to meet with his owners, a married couple, Kari and Kristin Hageback, 24 and 29 respectively. Kari works in construction, and Kristin is a nurse aide. While the hospital gets people from Northern Kentucky and Indiana routinely coming in at night, when other veterinary centers are closed, the Hagebacks are from Cincinnati.

“They were wrestling over something. I’m not sure what it was over,” Kari says, of Kingston and his mother, Knox (short for Knoxville).

Kristin thinks the 10 or 20-second wrestling match may have been due to the dogs leaving the room at the same time, and that Knox wanted to be first.

Knox gave birth to Kingston in this exam room, the Hagebecks says. They brought Knox here when she was having a difficult labor. “They should name this room after us,” Kristin says.

In any case, the Hagebecks were lucky. Kingston didn’t have any broken bone, and after treating his wounds, Brownfield determined he would be fine and could go home. In another room, another family isn’t so fortunate. They brought in a German Shepherd with advanced cancer and a tumor in his eye. Unfortunately, that dog didn’t make it home. And that’s one of the hardest parts of the job for Brownfield and the rest of the staff—having to break the bad news.

But ER veterinarians can’t let their emotions run amok, and minutes later, Brownfield is treating Sheera, a cat with possible constipation. But she is 14 years old, “a 2002 model,” Brownfield quips, and she is a little concerned that Sheera might have kidney disease. Linda Grundei, a retired teacher, who brought Sheera in with her daughter, Kristin Blair, who works in childcare, elected to let her cat stay overnight for an enema, with the plan that Sheera would have a follow-up visit with her regular veterinarian.

Some owners, of course, can’t afford to let their pets stay overnight. This happens a fair amount, Brownfield says. And pet owners don’t always seem to understand that veterinary hospitals need to be paid in order to stay in business. “We don’t receive government funding to keep the doors open and lights on when owners cannot pay,” she explains.

Brownfield says she once had a couple bring in a dog that had been in labor for two days.

“This is way too long for a dog,” Brownfield says. “She was very sick with a fever, vomiting and had started having seizures, likely because she was becoming septic. The owners didn’t have the funds for an emergency C-section and hospitalization and were furious that we required money up front for hospitalization and surgery. They thought since we were an ER, we were required to treat their pet regardless of financial ability like human medicine.”

“The man got in my face, screaming obscenities and calling me names, telling me I don’t care about animals,” Brownfield says.

The incident ended with the man refusing to leave and refusing to let anyone else come to the hospital, by blocking the entrance of the parking lot with his car. It was one of the few times the hospital had to call in the police.

But along with those downs, the job has its share of ups. Brownfield says that her favorite ER surgery is gastric volvulus and dilatation surgery, also known as GDV. It fixes a sometimes-fatal problem called bloat, which many dog owners fear since the stomach literally flips inside the dog.

But it’s her favorite surgery, and while that may sound odd with such a serious condition, if things work out, there’s nothing like the feeling that comes with saving a family pet.

 “You can take a dying dog and make him better so quickly. It’s very rewarding,” Brownfield says.

Even though Brownfield is only 29, she really has seen it all. She’s treated pets that have fallen several stories out of windows, gotten sick from ingesting marijuana and anti-freeze, and has helped nurse dogs and cats back to health from abuse and starvation cases. She has also encountered intoxicated pet owners bring their pets to the animal hospital and some owners who were probably under the influence of something stronger.

But most of the people who bring their pets in, whether in the middle of the day or the dead of night, are “wonderful, nice people,” Brownfield says. Still, when it comes to the ER, “there are sad stories, and it can be fun and exciting. You never really know what you’re going to get.”