Clinic to offer emergency animal care

May 31, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Starting tomorrow, pet owners won't have to worry about waking their regular veterinarian to rush to the office when an animal companion becomes seriously ill or is injured during the night.

"We plan to provide a 24-hour emergency trauma veterinary care center," said Dr. Douglas T. Chilcoat of the service he is opening at the Westminster Veterinary Hospital this week with Dr. Ann Hickson. "Our goal is to provide a veterinarian and a technician on site 24 hours, 365 days a year."

He noted that most veterinarians are always on call to handle emergency cases.

"After 24 years, it definitely takes a toll on one," said Dr. Chilcoat, who has been a veterinarian in Westminster that long. "The time has arrived when there is a definite need in the community for this."

Dr. Hickson, who has been practicing veterinary medicine for seven years and has been on call as an emergency care veterinarian, will be the center's director.

Veterinarians will see patients for any injury or condition that a pet owner feels is life-threatening, painful or a cause for concern, she said.

"We will be seeing things that aren't necessarily an emergency, like if the owner perceives the animal is in pain or discomfort," she said.

Preventive treatments, such as inoculations, will not be done after the veterinary center's normal office hours, Dr. Hickson said.

"We will not be vaccinating a dog at 10 o'clock at night," Dr. Chilcoat said.

The service will be provided in cooperation, not competition, with other area veterinarians, Dr. Chilcoat said.

"In essence, the other veterinarians are our clients," he said. "It will be a service to the community as well as the profession.

"We have contacted our colleagues in town and, so far, I feel they've been very supportive and positive."

Dr. Hickson said, "We're not interested in stealing anyone else's patients."

She said she expects the emergency facility -- the only one in Carroll County to provide a veterinarian 24 hours a day -- to focus on dogs, cats and other small mammals, such as rabbits, ferrets and gerbils.

Veterinarians who specialize in larger animals usually remain on call for their clients, Dr. Chilcoat said.

"It's usually not feasible to bring a larger animal into a clinic," Dr. Hickson said.

Westminster Veterinary Hospital doctors now are called in about four or five times a week to handle critical cases, Dr. Hickson said.

But as other area veterinarians grow to trust and rely on their services, she expects the caseload to increase.

"We look to average a caseload of 40 to 50 cases a week," Dr. Hickson said. "We will be drawing on this and other practices in the area."

Drs. Hickson and Chilcoat said they expect to receive emergency patients either through phone book advertising or direct referrals from veterinarians.

"In theory, the referring veterinarian might be so kind as to have the emergency trauma center number on his answering machine," Dr. Chilcoat said.

When clients take patients to the hospital, they will be asked to provide the name of their regular doctor. Records of all treatment for the animal will be kept and forwarded to the veterinarian, Dr. Chilcoat said.

Both doctors intend the facility to be a state-of-the-art animal hospital, with electrocardiogram machines, oxygen delivery systems, endoscopes, blood pressure monitors and infusion pumps.

The center will also be able to consult by phone with veterinary cardiologists in New York through the Cardiopet system.

Some animal trauma centers close during the day, but seriously ill or injured patients will be allowed to remain at the Westminster clinic until their conditions stabilize, Dr. Hickson said.

But under normal circumstances, patients will be transferred to their regular veterinarian in the morning. If clients cannot take their pets, transportation will be provided, Dr. Hickson said.

Clients will be charged a fee for an initial emergency examination and be given an estimate of charges if the animal is to be hospitalized, Dr. Hickson said.

The balance will be due when the pet is discharged from the hospital.

"The average fee will be higher than what you would normally incur at the regular veterinarian office," Dr. Hickson said.

"It is more expensive to deliver emergency pet care," Dr. Chilcoat said, adding that people are becoming more aware of veterinary specialties.

"There are specialties in all areas, just like in human medicine."

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