2009-07-10 / Front Page

Emergency hospital cares for all pets

Photos and story by Natasha Derrick

Dr. Tracy Duffner (l) and veterinary technician Lisa Ray treat Layla for a drug overdose. Dr. Tracy Duffner (l) and veterinary technician Lisa Ray treat Layla for a drug overdose. It was a steamy Sunday afternoon in June. The temperatures were climbing into the hundreds, and the staff at the South Carolina Veterinary Emergency Care was preparing for what is normally the busiest day of the week. But this Sunday was fairly quiet.

"We don't like to mention it," veterinary technician Kelly Wellman said. "As soon as we do, it gets busy."

The doors to the high- tech facility on Fernandina Road are open nights, weekends, and holidays for any kind of veterinary emergency. The team serves all pets from boa constrictors to guinea pigs.

On this day a young, energetic Golden Retriever named Layla was brought in after swallowing 10 of her owner's Rimadyl tablets, an arthritis medication.

"It's fairly common," veterinarian Tracy Duffner said. "Pets get into human medication or other things they shouldn't be eating. We will have to make her throw up first."

Minutes later, Layla was likely regretting opening that prescription bottle, but the technicians were thrilled to have found at least five undigested tablets. According to Duffner, with some rest and charcoal treatments Layla should make a full recovery.

Long- haired daschound Beanie Weanie gets a calcium treatment from veterinary technicians Kelly Wellman (r) and Randy Smith. Long- haired daschound Beanie Weanie gets a calcium treatment from veterinary technicians Kelly Wellman (r) and Randy Smith. Unfortunately, not all cases are so simple. That is why Emergency Care is outfitted with some of the most advanced equipment. The facility includes an on- site pharmacy, laboratory, digital radiology, sterile surgery room, and accommodations for critical patients. It is all tied together with an efficient online record system. From the moment an owner calls, their sick pet is placed in the system. From that point, all treatment data from initial exam to final diagnosis is stored and accessible from any of the several computers in the hospital.

One of the most common symptoms the staff sees is vomiting and diarrhea. "It can be caused by just about anything," Duffner said. "Then it's up to us to figure out what is causing it." During the summer, Duffner also sees cases of heat stroke and the occasional snake bite; an injury that she says requires immediate treatment, especially in cats.

The doctors on call work long shifts of 12 hours or more, so the clinic becomes like a second home. "We basically live here," Duffner said. Like any home away from home Emergency Care has a room where doctors can take naps and a shower. It also has a kitchen.

Of course, even with the best medical treatment and facilities, the worst can happen. In that event, the Emergency Care provides a quiet, private room where the owners can spend time with their pets before they are euthanized. For those still awaiting news on their pets, a waiting room stocked with snacks and beverages helps pass the time.

"It can be very difficult," veterinary technician Randy Smith said. "There's a lot of death, but there are equal amounts of happy endings. In the end it's rewarding because you're really helping the ones that need it."

Like Ed and Carolin Duvall's chow Sugar Bear who came to Emergency Care in early June with a life- threatening condition. Sugar Bear's stomach had flipped and her spleen had ruptured, a situation requiring immediate surgery. The five- year- old chow died twice on the operating table, but Duffner was able to revive her.

"Tracy kept working with her and didn't give up on our dog, and that's why our dog is alive," Ed said "Sugar Bear is our child now that the kids are out of the house. She's a good dog."

The cost of emergency veterinary care is more than an average veterinary visit but worth the cost for the Duvalls. The clinic encourages pet owners to be aware of the cost but to also weigh the benefit of possibly saving a beloved pet.

"It was expensive," he said. "But I wasn't going to let my dog suffer. We were lucky." How do you know when your pet needs to be taken for emergency care? Look for signs of the following:

• Bleeding • Bloating • Difficulty Breathing • Difficulty Urinating • Eye Problems • Heatstroke • Inability to Deliver Puppies or Kittens • Penetrating Wound • Poison • Seizures, Loss of Balance, or Consciousness • Severe Vomiting or Diarrhea • Swelling • Trauma • Weakness

Visit the Web site for a complete description.


Return to top