A Day in the Life of an Emergency Veterinary Team

Illnesses and accidents can happen at any time of day. When a beloved pet is sick or hurt, our clients drop everything and seek care. At the ER, the staff triages the problem. Here, there are no appointments, just degrees of urgency. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians and front desk staff must be ready for anything, adapting quickly, prioritizing cases, and supporting each other in a job that blurs the lines between medicine and detective work.

Ready for Anything

A day in the life of an emergency veterinary team can be rewarding, exhausting, and everything in between. Some cases are “treat and street,” and the patient goes home within a short timeframe. Or, there may be multiple experts who get involved from Emergency and Critical Care, Internal Medicine, Surgery, or other specialty departments, depending on the severity of the case. There is no typical day.
One Saturday, SAGE Dublin treated mostly cats, and they all had very unusual problems:
There was the 16-pound cat who came in because he had trouble breathing. At first, doctors thought he may be experiencing the effects of cardiomyopathy, or heart disease. But after examining him a bit more, they discovered this very sweet cat was suffering with a pneumothorax, also known as a collapsed lung, probably caused when the big dog in the house stepped on him.
Then there was the domestic shorthair cat whose owner suspected he had eaten something he shouldn’t have. Radiographs showed he had eaten a long piece of cord that was filling his esophagus, which explained why he hadn’t been his normal self for a while. The cat was moved to SAGE Dublin’s Internal Medicine department where a veterinary internist used an endoscope to expertly remove the cord from his esophagus and stomach without the need for surgery.
Some cases break your heart. Like the beautiful orange cat whose parents brought her in because she hadn’t been eating or drinking. The veterinarian had to deliver very sad news: Their pet had an abscess in her abdomen. Doctors suspected the abscess was a necrotic tumor, which could have been the result of an infection or injury. Her prognosis was poor. Her parents made the tough decision to say goodbye.

Surprising Turnarounds

Animals push through some devastating health issues. A mixed breed dog arrived at SAGE Redwood City because she would not get up or walk, and when she did, she seemed dizzy. The patient had an MRI that revealed an intervertebral disc rupture and a probable hemorrhage. AnimalScan and the SAGE Neurology team quickly moved her to the operating room, where Dr. Vivian Lau performed surgery. After surgery, the dog wasn’t breathing well on her own and she was placed on a critical care ventilator in CCU. The emergency team and nursing staff managed her for the next three days on the ventilator. A group of SAGE veterinarians and veterinary technicians volunteered to be on the ventilator team. They did this in addition to their normal shifts because a patient on a ventilator must have a dedicated nurse around the clock.  She remained in the hospital for another week once she was off the ventilator. Then, she moved on to medical boarding, where SAGE staff worked with her to recover use of her limbs. Soon after, she was able to go home, and she was walking! She will follow up with our Neurology and Physical Rehabilitation departments and they will continue to treat her and help her toward a full recovery.
There is no typical day.

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