There are few things more frightening than helping a beloved family member through an emergency medical situation. Emergent medical conditions can present appear in an instant as a definite threat, show up slowly and level off at a point of apparent no return, and still others show up gradually as a condition of unknown concern. Oftentimes, the stress to you as the owner and caretaker is more troublesome than the risk of long term injury to your pet in these situations. Owner concerns are almost always manifested as wanting to ensure the best and most comfortable lives for their pets which leads to more stress when our clinics are closed and direct contact to us is limited during times of medical uncertainty with our furry friends.
The most pressing emergency conditions needing immediate care involve gastrointestinal blockage or rupture, infections leading to internal abscesses causing blood loss and rupture, and intolerable pain or discomfort. Serious gastrointestinal issues include intestinal blockage with a foreign object (bones, feminine hygiene products, rocks, etc.) or some other issue causing intestinal rupture, “bloat” (gastric dilatation-volvulus) or “flipped stomach”, pancreatitis (vomiting and diarrhea), and primary stomach issues (blockage, hairballs, vomiting, etc.). Abscesses in the body can rupture which could then lead to either a significant lessening of pain or further problems. For instance, if the abscess is on the spleen and it ruptures there could be significant (even life threatening) blood loss. Pyometra occurs when the uterus becomes blocked and infected leading to rupture and possible death, if left untreated. Pain is another concern for immediate attention as it causes pain and suffering in not just the pet as we watch as owners watch these conditions unfold. These disorders are where emergency care is needed as soon as possible.
Emergency veterinary care is a complicated, commonly very stressful, and an expensive endeavor. Back in the day, we, as veterinary clinics, would see after hour emergency visits at our clinic. The quality of care we could provide during those visits was limited because it was usually just the veterinarian and the owner. If the patient required further care, the decision was made to either leave that patient alone at the clinic or go home with the owner. In the early ‘90s Drs. Jim Withers and R.E. Calhoun were founding members of the Tri-County Animal Emergency Clinic (TCAEC) currently located on Sterling Ave in Peoria. This endeavor revolutionized after hour care for pets in the Tri-County area. This clinic is open Monday through Friday from midnight to 8a and 5:30p – midnight, on Saturdays from midnight to 8a and 12:30 – midnight, and all day on Sundays and national holidays. It was initially staffed by local veterinarians on a volunteer and rotating basis. Over the course of a few years there were 2 veterinarians that came into the emergency clinic as full time veterinarians which greatly reduced the need for other local veterinarians to fill in and pick up shifts. Over the most recent few years we have been fortunate to have 3 emergency veterinarians working to provide emergency or unplanned veterinary care for our patients; and this provided untold piece of mind as we knew there was always someone available for service and care of our patients encountering emergency problems.
Fast forward to the last year of veterinary emergency care in our region and we all realize that things have changed. Of the 3 emergency room veterinarians, 1 retired and 2 took positions elsewhere. The 2 that left did not leave as a result of clients or discontentment in their jobs. They just found other opportunities and took them. The TCAEC Board has been diligently working to find qualified veterinarians to fill these gaps. That has been totally unsuccessful after nearly a year of searching. That makes one thing abundantly clear: we have been very, very fortunate to have the ER coverage that we have had over the last 25 years. This current situation of not having full time ER veterinarians has put our local veterinary community in quite a conundrum in figuring out how to deal with these open shifts. Quite a few local veterinarians have stepped up and filled some of these shifts, but there are times that we simply can not find available veterinarians to provide the needed coverage. This puts everyone in an uncomfortable spot as clients may be required to drive to Bloomington, Springfield, or Champaign for emergency care as we are neither staffed not equipped to provide adequate, consistent emergency care. We all agree this is not a desired situation, and we ask you to know that we are doing what we can to find more vets. The Board hired a firm specifically to find veterinarians to fill these vacancies. There is a referral program available, too. So, if you know w veterinarian that would like a very good position working at TCAEC please let us know and you could get a bonus!
In the meantime please know that we understand the situation and will continue to work towards figuring this out. If an after hour emergency does arise please call (309)672-1565. Their website is located here.
Thank you for your support and we look forward to continuing to work with you.