Prepare for Emergencies with Senior or Ill Dogs - Dog Cancer Blog

Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.

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Prepare for Emergencies with Senior or Ill Dogs

The Call We Don’t Want to Make

This is a tough one to write, and it will probably be a tough one to read.  But part of being my dog’s champion, guardian, friend, and ‘parent’ means I have to be prepared to help. We all do, like it or not. It’s been over three years since we fought my dog’s battle of hemangiosarcoma of the spleen.  I can now call him a Cancer Survivor. He’s faced other challenges, amazed us along the way, and just celebrated his 16th birthday!  We’ve been very blessed to have him so long.

He is now an ‘old dog’ (if I have to use that expression), and he’s slowing down.  That’s what living things do. Whether through illness or age, there comes a time to slow, to stop, and to move on.  I don’t like it, but that doesn’t change the facts.

If the time comes that I need an emergency vet visit, or a vet to come to my home to help my boy in his final  journey, the last thing I want is a midnight panic while I try to find that help.  This applies at anytime, and with holiday hours occurring in most business, it’s especially important to be ready.

Be Prepared to Help Your Dog

So today I took my phone into another room where my dogs couldn’t hear me, and called my vet’s office.  I asked what their hours would be over Christmas and the New Year holiday, and I asked if there would be anyone on call for after-hours or home visits if we had an emergency. I have the info now, and I’m hoping that I won’t need to use it.  But for my dog’s sake, I’m prepared.

If your animal companions have been dealing with senior age, or a chronic condition like cancer, do them and you a favor and get information now, just in case. Do it while you’re clear-headed, practical, and thinking like a guardian.

Here is your checklist:

Call Your Vet and ask:

  • What are your Holiday Hours?
    • Is there an on-call or emergency service over the holidays?
      • Is it a different phone number? Make a note of it.
      • What is the charge for an out-of-hours visit?  Make a note of it.
        • How will they take payment for this?
  • Do they have an on-call vet to make a home visit to you?
    • Is it a different phone number? Make a note of it.
    • What is the charge for a home visit? Make a note of it.
      • How will they take payment for this?
  • Ask your vet’s office to give you a copy or send you an email with your dog’s recent medical history.  If you’re dealing with another vet service in an emergency, they may need this information.

If you vet refers all of their out-of-hours calls to an emergency vet practice, get the name and phone number and contact that service with these same questions.  Do it now. Put all this information where you can get to it easily. If you are told debit or credit card payment cannot be taken during a home visit, you need to set aside the cash or have a check ready. You don’t need to be fumbling around for it in an emergency.

Two years ago I was with a friend when his beloved girl breathed her last. It was 1am on Memorial Day weekend, and the panic in the house while they tried to find her that final help kept some family members from being able to say their goodbyes.  I told you this was tough. But if my dog needs me to champion him that one last time, then by golly I’m going to be ready.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that none of us needs to make that call. Have a wonderful, loving holiday with your pack.

About the Author: Susan Harper, AHC, DAH, MHAO, Animal Health Consultant


I'm a member of the Dog Cancer Support Team & a Dog Cancer Survivor! Two of my beloved dogs have had cancer, and with the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Apocaps, and full spectrum help given with boundless love, both our dogs far surpassed the odds we were given. I'm an Animal Health Consultant with a Diploma in Animal Healing, and Assistant Instructor with the Healing Animals Organization (MHAO). I'm passionate to help dogs and their people get through this journey. Early on I asked the Team how I could help, and here I am.

  • Ellen

    In my area (Harrisburg, Pa.) and many other areas now, there are services available where a vet will come to your home to perform pet euthanasia with a little notice (usually 24 hours). Here it’s a service called Peaceful Pet Passage. The vet was wonderful. She came for my beloved 17-year-old cat Ginger two years ago. And like you, Susan, I had to make the call in another room because I didn’t want Ginger to hear me. Fortunately, with a little bit of planning I was able to give Ginger a gentle, dignified and peaceful passing in her home environment. She died in my arms, in a chair she loved to sit in, in a room familiar to her. You are so right about having telephone numbers handy and some basic plans in place, as difficult as it is to make them in advance.