It has always boggled my mind, but many veterinary practices hospitalize patients without anyone in the hospital overnight! Why bother doing this? Doesn’t it make more sense to have the pet at home with the owner than be left without anyone with them in a dark hospital by themselves?
As a 24hr hospital, we give treatments around the clock. Some treatments are every 4-6 hours – those aren’t being done in a place that closes at 6pm and opens at 8am. How about going to the bathroom? Most animals in that situation, especially if left on fluids which will cause a patient to urinate more frequently, just urinate and defecate on themselves if they are unable to go outside. We routinely see patients pull their IV catheters or chew through their fluid line, and if left unattended would potentially have a significant amount of blood loss. How about if a fluid pump stops because the patient moves or the line becomes occluded? Well the patient isn’t going to be getting the fluids unless the pump is reset, which won’t happen if no one is there.
I have spoken with many veterinarians and employees of veterinary hospitals over the years about this. Some will say they don’t have problems, others will go as far as saying that they would walk in in the morning and count the number of patients that passed away overnight. Is that fair for the pet owner and pet? Could those situations have been avoided if the pet was home with the owner or at a facility that had around the clock care?
Clients need to be aware, and should be made aware by their veterinarian, that no one will be present in the hospital overnight if no one will be there. Clients should not just assume that there will be. There is a law proposed in New Jersey caused “Betsy’s Law” which requires NJ veterinarians to let owners know, in writing, that no one will be with their pet overnight if they are closed after-hours. I personally think that either verbally or in writing, this needs to be done by the veterinary hospital. Finances always come into play in the veterinary world, but is it worth a little more to have someone taking care of your pet around the clock rather than be left on their own with a hope that things go well? I guess that’s a decision only the pet owner can make.
Jared Coren, DVM