Easy Dog Emergency Vet Visits Tips

Does your heart race when your dog might be sick? Of course, you analyze everything and determine if you call the emergency veterinary care office or not. What if you have to make emergency vet visits with your dog? As we all know, most emergencies are never convenient. Are there things you should take or say that will help your dog in the diagnostic process? Or is there a way to even cut the emergency vet bill a bit?

I recently went through this pet emergency process when my dog Henry became ill on a Saturday. Yep, my mind raced. But I quickly gathered my thoughts and put together a pet owner plan for him.

This is what I learned and hopefully, you can learn a little from it as well.

a dog is cared for during one of a pet clinic's emergency vet visits

*Updated: December 11, 2022

Budget tip:

Always ask the emergency veterinarian's office if they have any discounts. You can run through the list of AAA, AARP, and Good Sam, you name it. You might be surprised to find that they do offer discounts. Here's the other interesting point, that many pet parents don't realize, a lot of vets have a siding payment scale for those that really need it. Or you can do like I did, and get a regular vet visit when you take your dog to the emergency vet. That one was new to me, but it was definitely a budget saver!

Do I need to take my dog to the emergency vet?

Of course, you first want to access your dog and determine if you’re looking at an emergency situation requiring urgent care.

There is a long list of symptoms to look for in your dog or pet when determining if you should seek emergency care. The AKC has a great list you can review to see if your dog needs to be taken to an emergency vet clinic or even an animal hospital.

In Henry’s case, he was up through the night with very soft stools. I thought at the time, I’d cut back on his pumpkin and his stomach would settle back to a normal state. However, in the light of day, I could tell the issue was a bit more intense.

He actually had blood in his stool and was very lethargic. Thankfully, he wasn’t vomiting, showing signs of severe lameness, exhibiting difficulty breathing, or bleeding externally. These are some of the major emergency pet care visits. Additionally, the blood in his stool was bright red, a better prognosis than dark red, I thought it warranted at least a call to the emergency vet’s office.

Although my regular veterinarian is only available Monday-Friday, I have two emergency vets as backups. One was not available. However, the other emergency vet clinic was open and was seeing patients.

Pet Care Tip: If your dog has ingested something or you suspect your is sick from some sort of poison, you can contact the pet poison hotline at 855-764-7661 or Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435. Each call may cost $75. However, there maybe a free pet hotline if you have pet insurance.  You’ll need to look at your pet insurance policy. 

I called and discussed Henry’s symptoms with the call center veterinary team. There were three options available for Henry:

1. Schedule an emergency appointment

At this emergency vet clinic, there is a minimum of $199 for an urgent pet appointment. Honestly, at this point, the price didn’t matter. I was more focused on Henry and his dog health.

2. Vet Tech

I could have a vet tech look at him in person and then if needed schedule a regular vet appointment for immediate care as soon as available that day. I didn’t know this was even possible until that moment.

NOTE: This option may not be available in all area or regions depending on your state laws. But it might be worth inquiring about it. 

3. Wait for his regular vet

I could wait until Henry’s regular vet returned on Monday and take him in for a visit. This wasn’t even a consideration. I felt Henry need to be seen by someone on the veterinary team that day. 

I asked the gal, which option she would select if it was her dog. (Of course, I had already excluded waiting until Monday.) She recommended the vet tech. So, we proceeded with option two. This meant that IF Henry needed to see a vet, it would be a regular appointment and much less expensive.

Pet Care Tip: Ask at your urgent veterinary care office if they also take regular same-day new patients even after traditional hours. You could be surprised. If this is an option, it will lower your vet bill drastically. 

What do I need to take with me to the emergency veterinary clinic?

Even though Henry was seeing a vet tech, there was no guarantee he’d warrant being seen by a veterinarian. However, I needed to prepare as best as I could for the pending visit. Here’s what I gathered:

1. Current records

I grabbed the latest copy of Henry’s receipt from his regular vet. They do a great job on their receipts stating when vaccines are given, when they are due, and what was done at the visit. Basically, it gives a dog health overview. Your regular vet might do something similar. For Henry, this was a critical document.

2. Poo

Since I wasn’t going to carry Henry’s poo into the vet’s office (plus it was a warm day and more than a 45-minute drive), I took photos of all the piles in subsequent order. This actually worked very well because I could show the amount of blood, color, size, etc.

3. RXs and food

I also took photos of all Henry’s food, treats, and RXs for the vet tech and, if necessary, the veterinarian to examine.

While these aren’t exactly the best show-and-tell type photos, they are vital for the vet tech or veterinarian.

Pet Care Tip: Try to arrive ahead of any scheduled appointment at the emergency clinic, as you will most likely have to fill out a new patient form.

How do photos help the veterinarian?

Henry saw the vet tech almost immediately. She asked if he was vaccinated. I showed her his records from his regular veterinarian. At that point, she booked him an appointment with their veterinarian and we were in a room within 5 minutes.

When the vet came into the room, he asked what was going on with Henry. I explained how he “suddenly” became sick. He examined Henry. I said I had pictures. Seriously, the veterinarian was almost giddy about the fact that I took photos. Apparently, this does not happen a lot.  He said the amount of blood wasn’t enough to worry about. However, the photos really helped to see the whole picture better.

So, don’t be squeamish about taking photos of what you can’t take with you to the veterinarian. It will help your dog’s diagnosis.

What if I can’t get a regular vet appointment with emergency vet visits? Is there another way to cut costs?

Yes, look into Pet Carecredit. Depending on the amount you charge, there may not be any carecredit financing for up to 24 months if you pay the amount in full by that date. Henry’s emergency vet offered Pet Creditcredit as well. However, I was shocked that his bill was less than a regular visit to his normal veterinarian.

Or if you have pet insurance, then emergency veterinary care is most likely covered. However, you’ll have to make sure to check with your pet insurance to verify your emergency clinic is covered.

However, if the bill is super steep and these options aren’t available, then you can ask friends or family to help while you pay them back by doing odd chores. Yep, the old barter system. Hey, it worked in ancient times, why not now?

Additionally, you could even open a GoFundMe dog emergency fund account. But be prepared to create a page with legitimacy for your call to help. Think about how you would do that. What would it look like if you saw a GoFundMe account asking for help with someone’s dog? What adds legitimacy in your mind? Would it be an interview with the veterinarian explaining your dog’s emergency situation? Or maybe a video of your dog in overnight care at an animal hospital?

While it’s sad that people have been scammed from such sites, it makes it difficult for honest people to get help when they really need it. But that just means you have to put on your best thinking cap and make your call above reproach.

How do I know if I should follow up with my veterinarian?

If your dog isn’t improving within a few days, definitely call the emergency vet back or your regular vet. Henry actually made a visit to his regular veterinarian as well. I showed more photos and his vet extended Henry’s RX and gave him a different probiotic.

As for Henry, he most likely found something to eat on the property he shouldn’t have when my back was turned. His sensitive stomach didn’t like it and he paid the price. Meanwhile, I stressed over it. He was on chicken and rice and now is back to a very strict diet.

Other than his stomach going sideways, being a bit lethargic, and not wanting to drink much water for a few days, he never seemed super sick. I, on the other hand, was completely stressed out. I bet you can relate.

Related posts:

Summary of surprisingly easy dog emergency vet visits tips

It can be nerve-wracking when you need to take your dog to the veterinarian, let alone the emergency vet. However, having steps you can take can make the medical emergency visit easier for your dog, you, and possibly your pocketbook. These steps include photos of the unusual and switching to a regular vet visit when possible. While I just discovered the latter, it was a huge window of savings. I’m grateful Henry is making a recovery from his illness. However, I’m really excited that I get to share a new way to save when you need to seek emergency vet care.

a dog waits at a pet clinic for one of his emergency vet visits which his dog mom took him too when he wasn't acting like his normal self

What tricks have you learned to make your emergency vet visits easier? 


22 thoughts on “Easy Dog Emergency Vet Visits Tips”

  1. This is great info. It’s also a good reminder of why we should keep a copy of the vet records for each of our pets. If we can’t reach our veterinarian, such as during an emergency after hours, having that information readily available is key. Especially when it comes to things like medications that could have a direct impact on your pet’s care and treatment! Thank you for the reminder!

    • I’m glad it was a helpful reminder. It can become a bit overwhelming and stressful at the moment. Hopefully, these tips will ease those moments.

  2. I’m glad Henry is okay! These are great tips! I’ve started taking videos of my dogs whenever they seem to be feeling under the weather so I can show the vet.

  3. I really like the idea of taking photos of whatever you can’t bring along! Thanks for that tip. I went through the whole emergency vet process w/ my little girl Phoebe early in the year. I wouldn’t go back to my regular Vet because he basically botched her care badly, so the emergency Vet treated her for over 8 weeks straight. The cost was enormous, but they actually discounted the daily bandage changes I had to bring her back for every day. If they hadn’t it would have been astronomical.

    • I was so sad to hear about your sweet Phoebe. We always move mountains to help our kids, fur or human, and then worry about how to pick up the pieces later. I’m glad your emergency vet was able to cut you a discount. I hope you have a better regular vet now and you’re learning a few tricks to save on your pet bills. Big hugs to you!

  4. I’m so glad that Henry is ok! When we lived in the city, it was so easy to access emergency care. Our regular vet had staff on call 24/7 so we could call at anytime and usually still see our regular vet, or at least someone from the same clinic. Thankfully neither of my dogs have needed emergency care since we moved, because it’s a lot harder to access out here in the country. There are two local emergency clinics but they are overworked and understaffed, so the wait is long. I keep my fingers crossed that if either of my boys ever need emergency care it will be during their normal vet’s business hours. But of course it never seems to work out that way!

    • Oh my, that would be a bit stressful! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you too. One thought is if you have pet insurance, many have a hotline you can call for free. That would at least ease your mind and get you some relief until you could get vet care if you should need it. But I’ve got everything crossed that you won’t need it. Oh, one more thought….I used to have horses. While my mobile vet used to say she’d only work on big animals, she’d always worked on my dogs and cats. So, maybe if you can establish a relationship with a mobile vet that could work. I helped my mobile vet with low-cost vet clinics in college. That could be an in with a mobile vet. I hope I’ve put more ideas in your mind than you thought were available. But just in case, I’m keeping everything crossed. 😉

  5. Fantastic info. I am blessed that Layla’s records are all computerized so I do not have to worry about carrying records there. In San Francisco emergency vets have become almost impossible to find since COVID but my vet clinic thank goodness has finally opened theirs again. $199 is cheap compared to what I have to pay here.
    I am so relieved that Henry is back to normal and fine, you were smart to take photos for the vet to see, so much easier also.

    • You are right, COVID impacted emergency vets. You also make a valid point that big city prices are much steeper. However, the ideas of lower your emergency vet bill still apply. I’m glad you can access Layla’s records online. I also keep Henry’s printed, just in case technology should go down when I need it most. I’m glad to hear things are getting back to normal for you and Layla.

  6. Emergency visits are never cheap and always stressful and this is a good read to help dog owners focus during those times of panic. Our cat Dusty fell ill onBoxing day and that was not cheap but he did fine afterwards.

    Here we have all our records printed as companies insist on emailing policies for insurance purposes now (which is lazy IMHO).

    • Oh my, poor Dusty. I’m glad he’s okay now. Boxing Day would be an expensive day for an emergency vet visit. That’s interesting about emailing policies in NZ. Weird how things are different in different parts of the world. Yes, I do hope these tips help pet owners. Thanks for the continued support.

  7. First, I am so very glad Henry is okay! These are excellent tips! Whenever our dogs get sick, it is a stomach-dropping anxious time. With my five, I did take photos! Just the other day I was flipping through all my photos on my phone and came across some bloody poop pics I took of my gal Harley (she had mild HGE). So I really love the idea of your suggesting this. I am also impressed your ER has a vet tech to see and that you could get Henry in so fast. Great tip to find out if people’s ER has this option! I’m Pinning and sharing this to our FiveSibes Facebook page to help others!

    • Oh, dear Harley! It is something to flip through our photos, isn’t it? The things pet parents save are just odd sometimes. Yes, I hadn’t heard about a vet tech looking at a sick pet and then proceeding to a regular vet visit if needed. That was a new one to me and one I was excited to share. However, it may be limited by area requirements. I’m not sure about that. But it’s definitely worth inquiring about. Thank you for your continued support. I really appreciate it!

  8. I’m so glad the Henry is okay, and you were able to get in for a visit quickly. I know our most recent emergency room visit was a 4 hours car-wait prior to being seen. But thank you for sharing all these tips. This is such an informational post on this topic! I will say – the tech option may or may not be available depending on the state and their laws/regulations. Some states are very forward-thinking with using the veterinary nursing staff, others are not. Also don’t forget about Care Credit as an option for a interest-free payment plan if you need it!

    • That would be nerve-racking to have to drive 4 hours to see the emergency vet. I’d probably need O2 by the time we arrived. Good grief!
      You could be right about the tech option varying by state. I’m not sure how that works. It’s definitely one to inquire about. I hadn’t heard about it until Henry’s visit. It could be something new here even? You’re absolutely right about CareCredit. It can be a huge help with interest-free payments if paid within 24 months. That is a great option for many pet parents. Thanks for the continued support!

  9. Heey there jujst wanted tto give yyou a quick hdads
    up andd let you know a ffew oof thhe images aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sujre whhy but I think itss a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it iin two different internet browsers aand bth show tthe same results.

    • Thanks for letting me know. I just recently update my site. I’ve looked at this post on three different browsers and had a colleague look as well. It seems to be functioning well. I’m wondering if you have blocks on your browser or phone. That is most likely the issue. I wish you the best and thank you for visiting!


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