Dear Answer Man: I read the

Sept. 19, 2023, Rochester Post Bulletin story with interest about the gaping holes in the emergency veterinary care system

in the Rochester area. It suggested the situation is likely to get worse over time because of a combination of veterinarian retirements and not enough new vets getting into the profession to handle the soaring demand for services by pet owners.  

What I wish it had addressed is this: What are pet owners supposed to do in such an environment, when a sudden illness or injury to your dog, cat or rabbit requires immediate emergency veterinary care? — Owner of Clifford the Dog.

Dear Clifford’s Servant,

In talking to managers of veterinary clinics in Rochester, one piece of advice does stand out: Once you get your dog or cat or hamster, don’t dilly-dally in establishing a relationship with a veterinary clinic by becoming a client.

Having an established relationship with a veterinary clinic means you aren’t a stranger to them. Many clinics give priority to pet owners who are clients over those who just show up in the lobby for the first time with a sick animal in tow. If a clinic has an opening, they are much more likely to schedule a client than someone off the street.

Also get in the habit of bringing your pet in for routine wellness exams.

As one veterinary clinic manager said, “We’re going to do everything we can to see people that are established with us and have the expectation that we’re going to be here for them. Anything else is going to be if we have the availability.”

Rochester vet clinics also advise pet owners not to put off seeing a veterinarian if they notice early on that something is wrong with their pet. Sometimes, a person will call a clinic with a problem or concern that they have been observing in their pets for weeks and that has been allowed to fester into an emergency. Instead of a minor problem, it has now become an urgent, more costly issue.

Another helpful resource is 24-hour Vet Chat hotlines that put people in contact with veterinarians who can diagnose symptoms and offer advice. A few examples include ones sponsored by at 800-775-4519, or online chat options such as

to name but a few.

It’s also a good idea to prepare a pet emergency kit. The kit should include things like cotton balls, ice packs, towels and washcloths, and medical tape, as well as disposable gloves, medical scissors, tweezers, quick-read digital thermometer, saline eye flush, artificial tears gel, gauze pads and bandages.

Also — and this may be the most difficult advice for pet owners to accept — be realistic. Veterinarians are not miracle workers. There are limits to what vets can accomplish with sick and ailing pets. Sometimes an animal is too sick or old to be saved. A corollary is that even if you can’t get your pet in to see a veterinarian and it dies the next day, it doesn’t mean it died from a lack of medical attention.

Sometimes it’s just fluffy’s time.

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