True emergencies are stressful on everyone – the patient, the owner, the doctor, all the support staff. Some days hearing that an emergency is on its way is enough to make your head spin. How sick is it? Will it make it here? Can we save it?


The best emergency is the non-emergency:

  • “No sir, that is not a tumor it is a normal growth associated with hormones in a female budgie. “
  • “Actually, your bird is loosing feathers because he is molting – that’s just how they get new ones.”

 Easy emergencies are also nice

  • Broken blood feathers that need to be treated but resolve easily
  • An injured toe that just needs a splint
  • Hay in the eye (remove it and the guinea pig starts to feel better immediately).

Too Late

Heavy Metal Toxicity
The hardest to deal with are the ones that arrived already passed on or struggle through our initial attempts to stabilize but just can’t stay with us. It’s heartbreaking to pass that kind of news on to an owner. Sometimes those creatures who entered our lives for only minutes can create a powerful bond that affects us with a profound sense of loss that lasts for days.

Happy Resolutions
The ones I remember the most are the heart stoppers we saved. Even years later I remember the dying parrotlet who began to revive almost immediately after receiving intravenous fluids. I don’t remember what came next aside from the fact that she got through that day and the next.

Just recently I saw a bird who was vomiting and had lost a lot of weight. She was hospitalized for supportive treatments until she could keep food down and became strong enough to tolerate testing. Xrays showed us large gas filled intestines that were at a complete standstill. Luckily this bird responded to the supportive care and we were able to keep her going until medicine for her infection could kick in. You wouldn’t believe how excited we all were the morning she passed a big dropping full of well-digested food!

Out of Town Blues

One of my colleagues just described the following case:Gabby

Petey is an elderly amazon whose owners are out of town for 2 weeks. A petsitter comes by once a day to change his food and water but otherwise he’s alone. On Monday he seemed fine but on Tuesday he was at the bottom of the cage, fluffed with rapid heavy breathing. The petsitter takes him into the vet and agrees to an initial workup.

In The Past…
Petey has been seen by a veterinarian once every 2 to 3 years for an annual physical exam but no health workups have ever been done. The owner always felt the bird seemed fine.


Petey appears to be seriously ill. Luckily the petsitter is prepared and agrees to a health work up. A diagnosis of pneumonia is made based on xrays and bloodwork but Petey needs to be hospitalized. He is sick enough to need monitoring and supportive care.

The Concern…

The owners cannot be reached. All attempts to call their cell phones go straight to voice mail. Emergency contacts listed on the chart are not available.

There is no information for the petsitter to make decisions – potentially costly decisions, potentially life threatening decisions.


What Would You Do?

Do you want your pet to get all possible care? Do you have a financial limit or know that your pet has a long-term disease that may be getting worse while you are away? How does your veterinarian or your petsitter know these things?

The Solution

Provide your petsitter with a few pieces of information about your desires…even if you are only away for a few days. Some decisions must be made immediately and if your cell phone is off or lacking service you may not get to be a part of that decision.

Let your petsitter know where to take your pet – your regular veterinarian, an alternate, the emergency clinic you prefer (if there is more than one nearby). Advise them what you would like done – all lifesaving treatment? stabilization only? a humane euthanasia under the right circumstances? Be realistic…is there a financial limit you cannot go past?

Authorize your petsitter to make decisions in your absence and discuss that with them. Leave contact numbers that you can be reached at or advise the petsitter when you cannot be reached so that time is not wasted trying to get a hold of you. All too often we have sat around watching a pet that we are not allowed to treat or diagnose while waiting for permissions.

Miss Gregory

The Result

Thinking about your wishes, putting them on paper, advising your petsitter – all these steps can help make your vacation a little more relaxing if all goes well and a little less stressful if things don’t.