When do you need to see a vet urgently?

COVID, its impacts on vet access and how to decide if you need a vet urgently or if it can wait

dr kate adams on life of a vet in pandemic

Bondi Vet in lockdown

January, 2022. Last week my entire team at Bondi Vet went down. Yep, covid hit Bondi Vet in a big way. We were left with 2 young nurses, a receptionist whose first day was last Tuesday, myself and Dr Ryan. All at once, over a few days, we went from a team of 20 to 5 - one who’d never worked in a vet hospital before and one who still had a bad cough after having Covid.

In some kind of twisted cruel act of fate, I had planned time off last week - the first week I had off in a year, after a grueling 2021. But given I was the only vet without Covid, and the business owner, it was back to work, 12-15 hour days going at a pace and workload that gave me a stomach ulcer. And honestly, by the end of last week I had learnt two things: 1/ I can basically lick someone with covid and not get it and 2/ I never wanted to be a vet again!

This week I’ve had 3 days off to get over that feeling of never wanting to go back. I often say “who would do this job?” But last week I really meant it. So I’m going back. Tomorrow. Why? Because I bloody love pets and no matter what any insta trolls say, I’m a damn fine veterinarian that makes a difference. But things are going to need to change.

Vet shortage crisis

As a veterinary profession, we have an underreported problem. We don’t have enough vets. It’s been going on for years, but with Covid, the problem is compounded. So why don’t universities just train more I hear you ask? Well for starters that takes YEARS. There ARE enough young grads graduating from vet school, but the average graduate lasts 3 years before leaving for greener pastures. So, we have a senior vet issue, to be more precise.

Say Whaattt? Yep. It’s true. We give up our family life, our social lives, and work terrible hours in backbreaking work. There are easier ways to make a buck if that’s what you’re after! Trust me when I say, every vet that’s still in practice truly loves pets.

It’s not just Bondi Vet that is affected by Covid. Emergency hospitals around us were reporting 8-10 hour wait times for critical little patients and were turning away anyone that wasn’t near death. They are short staffed and under pressure and as we head into mid January with more and more cases, the vet hospitals around us will crumble just like we did, It means that Bondi Vet, the beachside general practice, has for the short term, turned into a full-fledged emergency hospital.

Abuse is never OK

Last week I turned away pets. Any pet not needing urgent care, we had to phone and explain that we just couldn’t see them. Some clients were next level amazing with messages of support and love. They sent us donuts, chocolates, cherries and lunch. Clients called and offered to answer phones and help us out. How overwhelmingly lovely. Others did not.

And in 15 years of being a veterinarian I had one of the worst weeks of my entire life. Myself and my two nurses still standing were on the receiving end of some serious abuse. One lady who’d come to collect her dog’s medication was awful to reception for having to wait 20 minutes for her dogs medication repeat.

Another lady screamed and yelled at me about how hopeless the service was and what a terrible person I was. She proceeded to scream that she was finding another vet. Good luck with that! And yep, our service was pretty awful - we could barely answer the phone, but we were doing our absolute best to keep the doors open.

All I can say is, be kind to the people that showed up. We really don’t have to. And we do because we care and love your pets. And ok, our customer service is a bit sucky right now but we are hopefully through the worst of it at Bondi Vet. I hope the rest of Australia is OK.

So - when do you need a vet?

Can wait a week

*Your pet has bad breath *You’ve noticed your pet might have arthritis and is not jumping on the couch like they used to *Your dog is barking excessively or has separation anxiety or is scared of the rain, check out our blog on dog anxiety for some tips on how to manage it. *Your young / middle-aged dog has a lump you’ve been monitoring or you’ve just noticed *You saw a flea on your pet (get some flea prevention for dogs or flea prevention for cats first) *Your pet is itchy and you haven’t yet put flea treatment on them (or you did it just today)

Best to see a vet in the next few days but not necessary today

  • your pet has a little bit of green snot discharge from their eyes (but isn’t holding their eyes closed)
  • Your otherwise healthy young dog has a cough
  • Your old dog has a lump that seems to be growing quickly
  • Your new kitten is sneezing
  • Your pet has a limp (but is putting weight on the leg)
  • Your pet is sleeping a lot
  • Your young, otherwise healthy dog has diarrhoea (with no vomiting)
  • Your dog's ear stinks or is itchy/ Watch a health story on dog ear infection symptoms and treatments
  • Your pet is itchy (and they are up-to-date with their flea and tick prevention)
  • Your pet has a rash
  • Your dog broke a nail

Needs to be seen today

  • your cat is breathing heavily/strangely or has a cough
  • Your pet has vomited multiple times
  • Your pet is holding their eye shut
  • Your dog isn’t eating (and they usually are a hoover)
  • Your pet's skin or gums are yellow
  • Your pet isn’t putting any weight on their leg/ hopping on three legs
  • Your old dog is coughing a lung up
  • Your chonky cat isn’t eating
  • Your cat has an abscess
  • Your pet ate a sock/ tennis ball/ rock etc.
  • Your dog has blood in their urine, vomit, nose etc.

Needs to be seen right now

  • You found a paralysis tick on your dog. (Watch a health story on symptoms of paralysis tick
  • Your dog has been hit by a car
  • Your dog has a bone sticking out of their leg
  • Your dog has had or is having a seizure (and has not been diagnosed with epilepsy)
  • Your pet ate snail pellets, onions, grapes, rat bait or eaten something else they shouldn’t (like a whole packet of your friend's Ritalin)
  • Your dog ate chocolate (google chocolate toxicity calculus first to check if they need to be seen)
  • Your large or older dog looks bloated, lethargic (and they may have vomited a few times)
  • Your dog can’t get up or has collapsed
  • Your cat cannot urinate or is vocalizing when trying to pee and nothing is coming out (especially male)

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