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When to call the veterinarian

- September 3rd, 2019 - Ask the Vet

By Daniel H. Grove, DVM

Ask the Vet

“When do I call my veterinarian?”

That is a question many clients tend to struggle with. In my opinion, it is better to make that phone call and discuss your concerns rather than waiting too long and having a more challenging time resolving a case. I would much rather have someone call during normal business hours with questions about a mild colic rather than 10 o’clock at night with a colic that is now dire. It is hard to give a recommendation on times not to call without having an examination of the patient to make a determination. So, here are some key times when I think it is prudent to get on the phone and at least discuss the situation with your veterinarian.

Colic. This is probably the number one reason for emergency calls. Colics can be mild and resolve on their own, but they can be life threatening. Treating them early for some types really makes a huge difference on the outcome.

Bleeding. If you have profuse bleeding that cannot be controlled, this warrants an immediate call. Blood loss can lead to death.

Eye problems. Eye problems can go south quickly. If there is squinting, tearing, changes in color or other signs of discomfort, at least discuss the situation sooner rather than later with your veterinarian.

Non-weight bearing pain. If your horse will not put weight on a leg, this is a good reason to call. It can be as simple as a hoof abscess, or as bad as a fractured bone.

Anorexia/No interest in food. If your horse is not eating, that is a big sign that something is wrong. They are meant to be eating most of the time. There is a myriad of reasons for this, but whichever it is, it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Problems with urination and defecation. If they cannot pass waste products or are not making enough, these things need to be resolved quickly to avoid getting to a point where you cannot fix them.

Fever. A mild fever can help fight an infection, but if it gets too high, measures need to be taken to prevent it from killing your friend.

Wounds. If you have a wound that is going to require suturing, getting it repaired sooner will increase your chances of a successful repair.

Before you have an emergency. Many equine veterinary practices are starting to not see emergencies unless you are already a client. My practice does not take this approach, but I do feel that it is better to have an established relationship with your veterinarian on a routine call prior to an emergency.

Unfortunately, if you own a horse, it is not if, but when are you going to have an emergency. It is a part of owning them. When faced with that situation, do what you can to maybe mitigate that emergency call fee—call as soon as you notice something, and you may be able to get it resolved with just a phone call. If not, dealing with it sooner rather than later will likely be less costly in the long run.


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