Emergency Vet? Or Preying on Vulnerable People?

Jillian here. Warning: this is long, so move on if you don’t have time. I won’t be offended. 🙂

A few weeks ago, Hobbes was lethargic and not eating on a Saturday evening. All day Sunday, he just laid in my bed and slept. He never surfaced to eat or anything. Of course, Mr. “I Need Treats All Day” had me worried but I chalked it up to his being tired from helping Mr. C in the yard on Saturday.

Monday, we all went to work, but when we got home, Hobbes wasn’t able to make a sound other than sounding like he was choking. He was also was making the cat vomit movements they do with their neck before puking, but nothing was coming out. He was clearly in distress.

#2 son and I thought he might have a stick or something in his throat and, rather than waiting until the next day to see his regular vet, we decided to go to the 24 hour emergency vet. I’d never been there before but know it cost $110.00 just to walk in the door. But this was Hobbes so I was ready for that.

The rules were you had to call from your car and then they tell you when to come in. Masks are required and only one human with the animal. We were the only ones to follow those rules as shall be seen….

When I got inside with him, they whisked him off. Before I could get checked in, this woman ran in with her daughter—no masks—and started screeching about her dog being kicked in the head by a horse. He looked alert so I was hopeful for him. They took her back to a room with her dog and her daughter. My son was sitting in the car because, rules….

While I was being checked in after the drama of the dog. A man and woman (no masks) came in holding a poodle in a towel and kept saying, “excuse me…our dog…” 

I finally got in a room and the waiting began. The lady with the dog that got kicked in head was in room next to me. I could hear her sobbing and crying with her daughter and then a man who joined them. Meanwhile, my son still sat in the hot car—running the engine so he could use the air conditioner.

Finally, after an hour—which I get due to triage— the vet came in to talk to me. She talked 900 miles a second and I could barely keep up. She asked if I knew Hobbes has a heart murmur. Nope. Never heard that before. And that became her focus. Not that I thought he was choking or something.

She left and then they brought in a plan of treatment. It was an estimate of $1,500.00-$2,500.00. I just about had a heart attack myself. She had a long list of things she wanted to do and they required $1,900.00 down right then. The tech acted a bit peeved that I needed to call my husband. Then, the kicker? I had to sign and choose between 3 methods of resuscitation. 1. None, 2. Minimally invasive (for $500.00) or 3. Invasive ($1,000.00). At that point, I wanted to vomit or cry or both. To me, they prey on people who are worried about their pet. It was vile and manipulative—both the outrageous bill and the choosing resuscitation method. But, being worried about Hobbes, I left him there and chose the $500.00 resuscitation option—it was explained they need that in case they couldn’t get me if he was in distress.

As I was at the desk paying the “deposit” a vet tech came running in from the side door screaming she needed someone to help her resuscitate the huge dog she was carrying. She was yelling “STAT” and calling out a room number.

I almost went into melt down. This place was too much for me. And I was leaving poor Hobbes there. He’s not a big fan of noise or drama. So, worried about him and his health and traumatized myself, I left.

You can only call to check on your pet between 5 and 6 am or 4 to 5 pm. I set my alarm and called at 5:10 am to be told she wanted to observe him for the day and wanted to get the local animal cardiologist in to look at his tests. She said that $500.00 the cardiologist charges was within the “budget” they gave me the night before. I almost snorted at that. HER budget maybe. Not mine. I declined. She told me to call back at 4 pm to see if he was ready to go home.

So, I did. Had to call 3 times before I could get an answer. Finally got there to get him at 4:50 p.m.  Called from car as I was still following the rules. The girl said, “Give me a few minutes.” I waited 5 minutes and then went in. She turned in her chair and in a voice like I was five years old, she barked, “I TOLD you to wait in your car.”

Stunned, I said, “No. You told me to give you a few minutes.”

She pointed to three people in lobby—none with masks—and said, “I have to wait on them first.”

“I just want to get my cat and go.”

“You’re getting a partial refund so go back to your car until I call you.” Again in that voice reserved for small, misbehaving children.  And why were others allowed to sit in the lobby with no masks, but I had one on and had to go back to my car?

It took 20 minutes for her to call. There was more dog drama while I was getting my refund- the yelling and carrying on in that place was heartrending and stressful. The emergency vet prescribed heart pills and said he’d have to be on them the rest of his life. I left there with Hobbes at 5:55 pm. And I will never, ever, ever darken their doors again.

Three days later, he was still lethargic and not eating or using the litter box. His regular vet, at his follow up appointment, said he had no heart murmur and never had. She looked at the X-rays they took at the emergency vet and said he had fluid on the lungs and was probably nauseous. She gave him a shot for the nausea and some Lasix pills to get rid of the fluid. No need for the super expensive heart pills.

By the time we got home from the real vet, Hobbes was perky and hungry as a bear. He ate a lot and wanted to go outside. It took a few more days for him to be completely back to normal and his meow was the last to recover (he had been sounding like a frog, not a cat).

What did I learn from this? That, sadly, the 24 hour emergency room staff do not care about how they treat people, don’t care about following their own rules, will gouge people who are concerned about their animals and over test and over charge. And do not truly have the best interest of anyone but themselves at heart. While I didn’t like paying the amount of money they charged me, I am lucky I had the resources to do so. What about the people who don’t? How many animals does this place put down due to the financial constraints of some of the pet parents? How many people go way into debt for unnecessary tests to save their animal? I don’t want to know. All I know is, I won’t be returning there. Ever.

16 responses to “Emergency Vet? Or Preying on Vulnerable People?

  1. That’s so sad that you had that experience, especially with Hobbes!!! So, first, I’m grateful to hear he’s back to his old self. (waving hi to Hobbes.) Second, while the cost is prohibitive, I was with a friend who’s dog had to be cared for at the emergency vet (in a pre-pandemic situation.) They were very caring and tried to put us at ease as well as her little puppy. While I believe in first reaching out to your regular doctor (humans and animals alike) there are emergency situations that need emergency care. I’m beyond happy that wasn’t the situation with Hobbes and I’m so sorry you had that experience. Hopefully, that vet isn’t the norm. I know my experience with our local ER vet was very good. Expensive, but good.

    • thanks. He is doing great. I will pass on your greetings. Before I went there, I had heard pretty good things about them- but sadly, my experience wasn’t great. I know they probably save some lives and that their work is stressful, but they need to really be sure their support staff is up to snuff. I have never been spoken to like that girl spoke to me. She was rude and condescending. I wouldn’t be able to stand the stress of working there and perhaps she needs to reevaluate her capacity to do so as well. 🙂 No one tried to put me at ease other than talking about how sweet Hobbes is. Even the guy who brought the resuscitation directive wasn’t sympathetic. It was routine to him, but not to me – it was terrifying to me. I am glad Hobbes was okay too- the vet focusing on the heart was frustrating. It was like she had tunnel vision at that point. If I hadn’t thought he’d choke to death by morning, I’d have waited to take him in.

  2. Thankfully, I have never had to go to an emergency vet, although I know they are all expensive. This, however, sounds like a place I would never go to again and I would tell my story to everyone I know who ever owned a pet. Luckily, you have a good vet of your own who you can count on. Give Hobbes a smooch for me.

    • thanks Martha. I will give him a smooch! He will love it. And yeah, I was not impressed with these folks. I love my reg vet. She’s awesome.

  3. Oh how horrible. And, having to leave them there would have been stressful enough. Love the picture he looks like himself. So happy it’s over and he’s back up to par.

    • Thanks Lavada – I wanted to cry that whole night he was away. I’m so attached to that lil guy. 🙂 I’m happy he’s home and healthy again for sure!

  4. Arghhhh!!! That is just NOT right! I feel so bad for your experience – for both you and Hobbes. And after all that – to get even get the diagnosis right. It’s horrid.

    • Thanks Trishafaye. The not getting the diagnosis right was particularly troubling especially since the follow up with his usual vet was several days away and Hobbes was still miserable until we could see her. Sad little guy.

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  5. I am glad that Hobbes is OK and that you kept your wits. They do prey on the vulnerable; I have heard many horror stories. When I had to go to a vet’s office here that was opened on a holiday because my ill cat took a terrible turn for the worse, the vet left the room said she was rushing to save his life with emergency intervention, then she came back with a fully itemized list of the (high) expenses treatment would cost, with no guarantee that they would do him any good, let alone save him. Making me feel heartless, I decided that he needed to go down.He was the sweetest cat in the world and it was hard, but the right thing to do. No way, even if I was a billionaire, would have put him through a lot of torture because I knew that he was very unwell. They really do milk and bilk at vets,especially emergency vet offices.

    • I didn’t keep my wits very well. LOL- I wanted to cry, vomit or pitch a fit but I did none of them- my stomach sure hurt though. I am sorry about your kitty. We have to sometimes make that hard decision- We had to with one with stomach cancer. It was so sad but I couldn’t let her suffer.

  6. Just reading this. How horrible for you and Hobbes. I’m glad he’s improving. I’ve been lucky with emergency vets – had to use 2 – and they were both very respectful and caring about my dog.

    • Thanks Marie. I’m glad he’s better, too. I am glad you ha a good experience at both yours. Maybe it was the stress of Covid rules as well as the stress of injured animals that got to that employee who was rude to me. I hope so.

  7. Oh Jillian. Apologies have only just caught up with this and am so sorry to hear about the dreadful experience you and Hobbes had. I do he’s okay now. I would certainly make sure that vet received some bad press. There is no excuse at any time let alone with people are stressed out with worry for their pets. Sending a belated hug to you both. 🙂

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