The emergency vet is always going be more expensive than your normal day vet. It costs money just to open the door and have the team there ready whilst it is not possible for them to guarantee that they will have patients.
Because of this fee just to be seen by a vet there is a big effort to make sure that only pet parents that really need to be seen arrive at the clinic. This starts with the national contact centre where a call handler, supported by a qualified veterinary nurse will talk to you about your pet on the phone and tell you whether you can wait for your day vet or you need to be seen by an emergency vet.
If, on arriving at the clinic, the client’s pet has improved dramatically, then or course they can change their mind with no charge. If a vet is not available to see an owner and sick or injured pet within a short time of arriving, then as soon as possible a registered veterinary nurse will triage the animal and get any immediate first aid needs started. Veterinary nurses are unable to diagnose or prescribe medication so this may be in conjunction with the veterinary surgeon ‘behind the scenes’ but with the owner’s informed consent.
There are a limited number of consultations that registered veterinary nurses are legally allowed to undertake on their own. These include things such as replacing a slipped or damaged dressing and are charged at a lower fee.
Then something that really surprised me when I arrived was that a manual blood test was used (I’ll write more about this later) instead of using automated machines that were used by the day vet in the same building. This was weird at the start – however in discussion it costs less than half the price of the automatic machines, is faster, and most importantly takes much less blood to do. It took less than 0.2ml for nearly every patient over the weekend which for an emergency patient keeping as much blood as possible in the body is important. Plus it means that certain parts of the blood test (such as amount of Red Blood Cells) can be repeated as needed without being forced to test everything again.
Sometimes a pet may need to come into the hospital for monitoring or to be given IV fluids to help them with dehydration for example. When this happens instead of being charged for the entire night or weekend the hospitalisation is split into 7 hour slots so you only actually get charged for the time your pet is in the hospital.
Off course the treatment varies between patients, however the vet does consider the different options to keep the cost of treatment as low as possible whilst keeping your pet alive. Emergency medicine is about trying to rule out possible life-threatening conditions and it can be necessary to be proactive to achieve this. While this can cost money it could potentially be life-saving and cost less in the long run, both financially and emotionally. Anything Vets Now do will be discussed with you and as I have said options will be discussed wherever possible and at the earliest opportunity. Many of the emergency tests Vets Now use regularly need to be repeated to get the most value from them. Sometimes repeats are built into the hospitalisation and nursing fees so there are no additional charges but allow your pet to have a high standard of monitoring and care.
I personally would recommend getting insurance such as Pet Plan to help you cover the cost of emergencies. Responsible pet ownership is something that Vets Now are very keen to promote, as they understand just how quickly veterinary bills can rise . Costs can quickly rise in the initial part of any emergency, even if the outcome is not good. Being able to find out more information to help the vet get an idea of prognosis, while not having to worry about the fine detail of the financial situation can be a great benefit of pet insurance. Lots of policies exist however and it is important to find one that meets your needs so always read the small print.