In 25 years of practice I have just about seen it all. But every week I’m reminded that the next ‘simple’ case through the door may be anything but! And who is better placed than the vets you entrust with the care of your pets to advise you whether further investigations or treatments are indicated. Or not. 

When I was in my final year of study my mother sent me a cartoon. (It was the old days – she cut it out of the newspaper and posted it to me). I’ve never forgotten it – a farmer and his son in a barn dimly lit by a storm lantern swaying in the wind, a pitiful, clearly exhausted cow recumbent on the floor surrounded by all the paraphernalia needed for emergency care. Restraints, buckets, towels and ropes. And the son turns to his dad and says, ‘Dad, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, and we’ve tried everything we can think of! Should we call the vet now?’

Thankfully that isn’t how things normally happen today. But often clients will apologise for bothering us with their concerns for their pets. They appear not to be sure if they’re taking up our time unnecessarily. And I will reassure them that we are here not only to deal with the obvious emergencies, but also to reassure owners, and in some cases to catch a case before it progresses to a more serious level. I have always said I’d rather look at an animal a day early than a day late. We always offer an appointment to owners expressing any concerns about their pet’s health or welfare, as it’s almost impossible to ascertain the seriousness of the situation based on owner’s varying interpretation and description of events.

So I thought how could I present a summary of ‘when to call the vet?’. But there are simply too many scenarios and potential causes we could discuss without making things any clearer. Ignoring the obvious serious illness or traumatic events that obviously require veterinary attention I thought let’s boil most of the rest down to a few simple points.

  1. If you only remember one point then this is it! If you have any doubts whatsoever about whether you should call your vets for advice, then, quite simply, you should call your vets for advice. It’s what we are here for.
  2. If you have any concerns about toxic exposure or ingestion please contact your vets immediately. 
  3. Bite wounds or penetrating injuries, even if they appear fairly innocuous at first look, really should see the vet. Often bacteria have been introduced under the skin through a relatively small wound and early intervention can prevent serious infections and abscesses developing.
  4. Anything to do with the eye or eyes – please get a vet to look at them as soon as possible.
  5. Animals that are lethargic, unwell, off food and not themselves. Or animals that appear to have lost weight, should all be seen by a vet to discuss the possible need for further investigations.
  6. Rabbits and Guinea pigs off their food , or not producing faeces, or with weight loss should definitely see your vet ASAP.
  7. Dog’s commonly have an upset stomach – bright, happy and eating dogs with mild diarrhoea can wait 24 hours on supportive care, however vomiting dogs or persistent diarrhoea need to see a vet. However, as per point 1 if you have any doubts at least call the vets for advice.
  8. Preventative care – particularly vaccinations, worming and tick and flea treatments. There is so much information out there – some evidence based and some individual’s subjective opinions. And as owners we are all striving to do our best for our pets with the information available to us. At the very least please get your vet’s perspective on these issues – we are always happy to discuss tailored vaccine and anti-parasitic measures with owners. This is always time well spent.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, and I never intended to cover every possible scenario. I really just wanted to reassure you that we feel there is no such thing as an unnecessary appointment. We are always delighted to help look after your precious pets and discuss any concerns you may have. As long as it’s not a cow. At 3 in the morning!

Michael Morrow owns and runs St Vincents Veterinary Surgery, an independent family owned practice providing personal care for pets in and around Wokingham since 2005. Well known for his love of animals and interacting with clients, Michael has been looking after pets in Wokingham for over 20 years. Should you have any concerns about your pet or to arrange a tour of the premises and meet the staff please call the practice on 0118 9793200.