Jeremy Chatelain, a veterinary assistant from WestVet Animal Emergency Clinic in Meridian, and Malorie Graybeal, also a veterinary assistant, unload Coco, a 3-year-old toy poodle, at WestVet Animal Emergency and Specialty Center in Garden City. Coco was treated at the Meridian hospital for internal bleeding and received a life-saving blood transfusion. She received a second transfusion in WestVet’s pet ambulance en route to see an internal medicine specialist at the Garden City center the next day.
Canyon, a border collie diagnosed with mediated hemolytic anemia, was one of the first canine patients to arrive by a new pet ambulance last fall at WestVet’s animal emergency center in Garden City.
The dog was stabilized at WestVet’s Meridian hospital where oxygen therapy and a blood transfusion were initiated – both of which continued during transportation via the modified traditional ambulance to the Garden City clinic.
“This is a huge difference from the past when we relied on owners to transport sometimes very critically ill animals,” said Dr. Jeff Brourman, chief of staff at WestVet Animal Emergency and Specialty Center, which owns and operates the vehicle. “You’d have to cross your fingers that the animal wouldn’t have any complications.”
More than a dozen pets have been transported since the service began in October. The ambulance which makes transfers only between WestVet centers or by referral from other Treasure Valley veterinary clinics. Pet owners cannot call for services without a referral.
“Operating a true ambulance created specifically for animals is relatively rare in the U.S., but we felt that it was a necessity given the occasional need for life-saving therapies during transport,” Brourman said.
The ambulance was modified with life-saving equipment including gurneys and a crash cart for immediate cardiac treatment and is stocked with medications and intravenous fluids that may be needed during transport.
Dr. Wendy Madura, a veterinary doctor at Pet Care Clinic in Meridian, used WestVet’s ambulance service to transport a small dog that was attacked by a larger dog.
“As long as we maintained it on oxygen, it was stable. But as soon as we removed the oxygen, it would crash,” Madura said.
“These emergency services have been wonderful for us to be able to transfer some cases. They hooked it up to their oxygen system in the ambulance and the animal made it there. We would not have been able to keep it alive and get it there for further support without the ambulance service,” Madura said.
Many area veterinary practices do not offer 24-hour care and are unable to keep an animal overnight if it is critically ill or injured, having breathing problems, seizures or requires constant medication. Those animals may then be referred to WestVet’s main emergency and specialty hospital where ambulance transport is offered.
“The field of veterinary medicine has made tremendous strides in recent years as we have developed the means to treat once untreatable conditions,” said Brourman.
“As a leader in the veterinary industry, we believe it is incumbent upon us to stay abreast of how human medicine is rapidly being tailored for veterinary medicine in order to continue to provide our patients with the most advanced diagnostic tests and treatments,” he said.
-by Stephanie Eddy, Idaho Statesman edition date: 01/10/08: 377-6481