Photo: Jill Krasny
Last Wednesday, my Maine Coon cat, Ringo, and I found ourselves in the animal hospital.Ringo had seen his vet the day before, and the $150 diagnosis was unimpressive: gastrointestinal upset, marked by vomiting.
For the next few days, I was to feed him bland food and half an antacid tablet morning and night.
But Ringo didn’t look so good Thursday. Despite following the doctor’s orders, he seemed depressed and barely could lift his head.
Thankfully, after running a few more extensive tests than our vet had done, Dr. Shaw confirmed what we’d already heard: stomach upset.
I was relieved, but also surprised. Had I overreacted to my cat’s indigestion?
As I paid the $300 bill, Shaw assured me, “I wish more pet owners did what you did,” she said. “By the time they get here, we can’t do much for them. Ringo could have had kidney or liver disease, or something stuck in his body. You wouldn’t have known.”
Dr. Michael LaSallo, chief of staff at the Burleson Animal Hospital in Burselson, Texas, agrees.
“We see people being less able to afford emergency care, just because they don’t have disposable income,” he says. “We see a lot of people waiting until Sunday when something has been sick for three or four days. But by Saturday, when they present this pet to the ER, it is extremely sick, and will be very costly to treat as a result. Plus, emergency hospitals, as a general rule, get paid upfront.”
The pain of paying for an ER visit — or losing your beloved pet — can be avoided by following preventative care: brush your pet’s teeth, monitor diet, and follow up on routine check-ups and exams.
By the time your pet arrives at the ER, “you could be spending two or three times as much and we’re not nearly as able to help them as the primaries are,” says LaSallo.
Of course I wasn’t thrilled about parting with $300, but keeping Ringo healthy is worth it to both of us. Wouldn’t you want to do the same for your pet?
I’m compiling helpful tips to keep your pet out of the ER. Feel free to share yours in the comments.