General FAQs

It is typically not financially feasible for general veterinary practices to afford the cost of staffing after-hours with skilled doctors, veterinary assistants and technicians, nor to afford the cost of certain advanced equipment necessary for quality emergency care. If a patient arrives on emergency with a serious problem, care may be required throughout a night or weekend. Your family veterinarian recognizes that it is in your pet’s best interest to utilize the advanced service available at our hospital for after-hours emergency care.

The American Animal Hospital Association has established guidelines suggesting that a patient should be referred in a timely fashion when there is:

A need for 24/7 medical supervision.

A need for additional expertise and/or advanced training.

A need for additional equipment or services.

An inconclusive diagnosis.

An unresolved/on-going or worsening medical condition.

The bottom line is that your family veterinarian referred your pet to our hospital because she or he wants the best possible outcome for your pet.

In general, patients visiting our emergency service are seen on a “first-come, first-served” basis (rather than by scheduled appointments). More life-threatening cases, however, must take priority over others. If you feel your pet’s condition is life threatening, please notify our staff immediately upon arrival so our doctor can perform an examination without delay. As this exam is conducted in the treatment area, you will not be present with your pet. The doctor will, however, still meet with you personally as soon as possible to discuss findings and arrange a treatment plan. If your pet is in critical condition, you may be asked to sign a release allowing immediate treatment. Although we are often able to meet with clients immediately, the unpredictable nature and severity of emergency cases may at times create delays, just as in human emergency rooms. Unlike a regular veterinary hospital, we cannot “schedule” emergency appointments. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to make you more comfortable during any wait.

Emergency care is available at times when regular veterinary hospitals are not open. As it is impossible for a daytime veterinarian and his or her staff to provide service around the clock, a centralized emergency center allows for intensive after-hours care by a specially trained staff with extensive equipment. Veterinarians referring cases to an emergency clinic want their clients’ pets to receive the best possible after-hours care. The emergency hospital, however, cannot replace the historical knowledge and valued relationship you have with your regular family veterinarian. After initial treatment on our emergency service, all follow-up care will be done by your family veterinarian.

Just like a human emergency room or trauma center, a modern veterinary emergency hospital requires more extensive equipment than found in a typical practice. Our hospital is able to provide ultrasound, state-of-the-art anesthetic monitoring, ultrasonic blood pressures, electrocardiograms, advanced surgery, and much more. As an emergency practice requires immediate blood test results, our hospital has also invested in an extensive on-site laboratory. In addition, operating an emergency/specialty hospital requires a highly trained staff of doctors, veterinary assistants and technicians working long and difficult hours. As a result, the overhead in operating an emergency hospital is greater than for a normal veterinary hospital. This is reflected in fees that may be somewhat higher than your regular veterinarian’s but are comparable with other Bay Area emergency/specialty hospitals. Our hospital prides itself on providing an excellent value in convenient, high-quality emergency and specialty care for your pet.

The problems and diseases that affect animals are at times difficult and complex, especially since we cannot “talk” to our patients. We also do not have the luxury of insurance coverage found in the human field, allowing unlimited costly testing. As a result, we typically perform “stepwise testing,” screening for the most likely problems first with less expensive diagnostic tests and recommending additional more costly tests only as warranted. Unlike a car mechanic or telephone-repair person, neither a human doctor nor a veterinarian can provide a guarantee that a specific test will diagnose a problem or that a recommended treatment plan will be successful. We will, however, make every effort to select tests and treatments that are most likely to be helpful to your pet.

A doctor must perform a thorough physical exam before he or she can determine what treatment, if any, is recommended. Following the exam, you will receive an estimate for the treatment plan the doctor recommends for your pet. Upon approval, you will be required to leave a deposit in the form of cash, ATM, check, or major credit card for the low end of the estimate. We also offer a financing program through CareCredit, a reputable veterinary financing company. Please feel free to ask questions if you do not understand any aspect of the estimate or treatment plan. If you are unable to afford the recommended plan, let us know what your budget for care is and we will do our best to work within that. Our goal is for every pet to receive the best possible medical care.

Yes. One of our obligations as a referral practice is to remain in close communication with your family veterinarian. We recognize that you may have a long and trusting relationship with your family veterinarian and that she or he may provide essential insight into the medical management of your pet’s condition.

The American Animal Hospital Association has established guidelines that referral practices should follow including:

Educating both the client and the referring veterinarian about the case.

Providing verbal or written daily updates to the referring veterinarian.

Providing a summary of findings, including therapeutic and follow-up plans.

Providing additional services only if these are in the best interest of the patient or requested by the client.

Our goal is to work closely with your family veterinarian as a team of professionals overseeing the care of your pet. Our mutual goal is to help your pet make a speedy recovery.

As there are no government subsidies for animal hospitals and relatively few pet owners have pet insurance, each patient’s care must be paid in full by his or her owner. Additionally, perhaps because emergency practices lack ongoing relationships with clients, experience has shown that many clients at emergency clinics failed to pay balances as promised. For these reasons, our hospital, like virtually all emergency practices (and now most general practices), is unable to offer billing for services. We do, however, offer a delayed payment plan through a reputable veterinary financing company called CareCredit. Ultimately, the extent of care given to any animal is determined by its owner and their financial resources. Our staff is, however, very willing to work with you to provide care within your budget.

If the doctor recommends that your pet be hospitalized at the time of an emergency visit due to his or her medical condition, you will need to make plans to pick up your pet for its return home or transfer to your regular veterinarian. The doctor should inform you as to an expected time of release. As the emergency doctor may be unexpectedly busy, we rely on you to call for periodic progress updates. We will, however, contact you at any hour if your pet’s condition should decline unexpectedly. Please provide us with an accurate phone number, and keep a phone by the bed at night. We ask that you contact our hospital each morning and evening to ensure you receive regular medical and financial updates. Our goal is to remain in close communication with both you and your family veterinarian.