Pet Owners Driving Increase in Emergency Care Facilities

by Karen Blackledge

The numbers of facilities and veterinarians specializing in emergency animal care are increasing, according to an official with the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association

Christian D. Malesic, of the Hummelstown-based organization, said both specific emergency training and emergency hospitals are a growing trend.

“More doctors are going into emergency medicine, obviously because of a want from owners,” he said. “This is totally consumer-driven. They don’t want to wait until Monday.”

Malesic said when he was younger he remembered veterinarians being open Monday through Friday, but on call if there was a serious issue.

He said pet owners want facilities like a human hospital, operating 24 hours a day with the capability “to deal with something wrong with their pet now.”

Animal emergency clinic locations are determined by population density, according to Dr. Heather Loenser, senior veterinary officer with the American Animal Hospital Association.

Loenser said about 15 percent of veterinary hospitals are accredited with the Denver-based association, including Sunbury Animal Hospital and the Animal Rescue Center in Watsontown, the two emergency animal hospitals in the Valley.

Accreditation with the association is voluntary, but “a hospital choosing to do that by taking an extra step is really cool,” she said.

The AAHA requires animal hospitals to be evaluated on-site by consultants on more than 900 standards. Consultants conduct reevaluations at each hospital every three years. Loenser said the standards range from medical record filing, to protection of staff from radiation from X-ray machines, to how animals under anesthesia are monitored and pain management techniques.

An emergency veterinarian for 10 years, she said emergency hospitals offer a “wonderful service to the pet-owning community, a wonderful service to the veterinary community.”

Loenser also said it’s a service to the general public because they take in injured strays and try to find a place for them.

“At 2 a.m. on a Saturday and something bad has happened, there’s a staff waiting with people to help them and that staff is very dedicated to working in an overnight situation,” Loenser said. “They have to be a very special type of person who, in living their lives, become a night owl when the rest of the world is an early bird.

“Second- and third-shift veterinarians, techs and assistants are incredibly valuable and heroes in their own right for sure,” she said.
Area veterinary hospitals with AAHA accreditation besides the Sunbury Animal Hospital and the Animal Emergency Center include the Bloomsburg Veterinary Hospital, Lewisburg Veterinary Hospital, Companion Animal Hospital of Selinsgrove, Anthracite Animal Clinic in Ashland and Ringtown Valley Veterinary Hospital.