Critter Buzz: Be prepared for your pets’ medical emergencies

There are a few things you can do to prepare in case you have to react quickly in a medical emergency for your pet, including establishing a relationship with your veterinarian, watching for subtle changes in your pets and considering pet insurance.

Last Wednesday, I noticed that my cat, Chive Turkey, wasn’t quite acting like himself. By the middle of the night, I found myself on the long trek to the BluePearl emergency clinic in Overland Park. It is unfortunate that Lawrence does not have an emergency clinic.

Perhaps that will change someday, but in the meantime there are a few things you can do to prepare in case you have to react quickly in a medical emergency:

Did you know?

The Lawrence Humane Society provides 24-hour response for any stray sick or injured animal in Lawrence each and every night. We have dedicated on-call staff who pick up these sick and injured strays and either bring them to the shelter, or to Blue Pearl Emergency Clinic where they are given basic medical care until they can be transported to the shelter in the morning for follow-up care. Great thanks to Blue Pearl Emergency Hospital for helping us take care of the sick and injured strays of Lawrence.

• Establish a relationship with your local veterinary hospital. Many private practitioners will see pets after hours in an emergency, but only for their existing clients.

Talk to your veterinarian before there’s an emergency, and make sure you know what your vet’s emergency policies are. Does your veterinarian take emergencies at all? Does your vet only take emergencies up to a certain hour?

Every hospital has their own practices, and knowing these in advance can save you valuable time when every moment counts.

• Make sure that all emergency information for your pet is posted at your home and readily available to anyone who may need it. Make sure that pet sitters are informed about what you want them to do in the event of an emergency and, if possible, leave contact information for yourself and have a back-up contact who make decisions for your pet should you be unreachable.

Include other important emergency numbers such as contact information for the nearest emergency hospital and the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline. This hotline number is (888) 426-4435 and can be reached 24 hours a day.

• Watch for subtle changes. Because you are with your pets on a day to day basis, it may be easy to miss subtle changes in their attitude or physical condition. While some emergencies are truly sudden, in some cases, animals will often begin showing subtle signs of slow-progressing diseases.

It is especially common for cats to hide medical problems, so take note of small changes like weight loss, lack of grooming or decrease in appetite. Having these small signs checked out early could save you a trip to the emergency room later.

• Consider investing in pet insurance. Many of the available pet insurance policies come at a very reasonable price, and some can cover up to 90 percent of medical costs should your pet have a problem. Pet insurance doesn’t cost much, but a visit to the emergency room can cost thousands of dollars.

— Jennifer Stone is the medical director and staff veterinarian at the Lawrence Humane Society.