It never fails. Whether it’s kids or dogs, if they are going to get sick or have some sort of medical issue, it won’t be when the doctor’s office is open. Nope. It’ll be on a Saturday afternoon, Christmas morning or Thanksgiving. If you happen to be a dog owner living along the lakeshore area, your options for urgent care are few.
Even though there are several local veterinary offices that market themselves as “animal hospitals”, the only true animal ER is a forty-mile trek east to Grand Rapids.
That’s a long ride and an expensive proposition when you’re not certain if you have a true emergency.
That’s the situation my wife and I faced last Saturday evening, when our JRT Ike began to swell until he looked like a chipmunk on one side of his face and muzzle.
Ike had just been to the vet on Friday, because he’d lost his bark, and was being treated with an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory for something akin to laryngitis. So, we were fairly confident that there was a connection. However, we had no way to judge whether or not it was an emergency. Ike’s behavior was normal. He just looked really strange.
While Sandy and I debated the pros and cons of waiting it out or driving to Grand Rapids, she did a little searching on the internet to see if swelling was a side effect of the medications. That’s when she came across a website that will be forever a part of our repertoire of dog resources.
The site is called JustAnswer and offers a number of categories that you can select: One of them being Vets/Dog Veterinary.
The beauty of the site is that it’s not just a repository of static information but, it is a portal that allows you to “chat” with an actual, licensed veterinarian. How cool is that?
You enter your question or concern and, within a couple minutes, you are chatting with one of the vets who happen to be online at that time. It’s like having an on-call vet at your disposal 24/7. However, instead of talking on the phone, you are texting on the computer.
In our case, the vet (Dr. Zoe) asked all the typical questions about Ike’s history, his meds, his behavior or whether or not he’d been exposed to any toxins or biting insects. After several minutes of back and forth communication, she concluded that, although uncommon, it was likely a reaction to the amoxicillin. She asked Ike’s weight and recommended we give him a 25mg tablet of Benadryl and see how he was in an hour or so. If the swelling hadn’t begun to subside by then, we should take him to the nearest veterinary clinic for further diagnosis and treatment.
She offered to keep the chat line open for as long as necessary, in case we had further concerns or questions.
Within a couple of hours Ike was noticeably less “chipmunky” looking and we went to bed comforted in knowing we’d taken care of our boy without having spent several hours and $200 getting veterinary attention at the Grand Rapids ER clinic. A follow-up visit with our vet on Monday confirmed the accuracy of the information we had received online.
Not that the JustAnswer service was free. However, it was less than $20 for nearly an hour’s worth of off and on consultation. A bargain in anyone’s book.
If you are a pet owner, take a minute and familiarize yourself with the JustAnswer website and bookmark it for future use, so the next time your pet has a medical issue come up on the weekend, holiday or during the night, you can get professional veterinary guidance on what you can or need to do.
Keep in mind, however, that this is not a substitute for the routine care and emergency treatment that is best provided by your pet’s regular veterinarian, who is familiar with your pet and his medical history; a critically important relationship that is invaluable in ensuring a long, healthy, happy life for your pet.
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