DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Kelly in Temecula," whose dog died as a result of eating a kitchen towel, touched my heart. I have been an emergency and critical-care veterinarian for many years, and her story is not uncommon. However, your warning left out an important point.
In her letter, Kelly said that for two or three days her dog wouldn't eat or drink, was lethargic and vomiting. Abby, if a dog vomits once and returns to normal, that's OK. However, if it vomits and is lethargic and anorexic, or vomits multiple times, the situation becomes an emergency.
Do not wait until it is convenient to see your family vet. Prompt medical care can be lifesaving, and also cost-effective. In almost every area of the country, there are qualified emergency veterinary hospitals to help your pet at night and on weekends, or even when your vet is booked up during the day.
Emergency vets work with your family vet -- we do not compete. If your pet is stable and can wait to be seen by your family vet, you will be given that option. Consider the emergency examination fee a small price to pay for your peace of mind.
Emergency facilities can be found in the yellow pages of the phone book or by calling your family vet's office at any time. Most will have an after-hours answering machine with instructions and referrals to the nearest emergency hospital that they recommend. All emergency hospitals are happy to give advice over the phone, help you determine the seriousness of the situation, and even recommend first aid. That is our job.
The phone number of a local emergency animal hospital is one all pet owners should keep handy. Many emergency hospitals give out free refrigerator magnets for this purpose. -- MITZI M. HOWARD, D.V.M.
DEAR DR. HOWARD: It has been many years since I was a pet owner, and I was not aware that this terrific service existed. I'll bet many of my readers are also unaware of it.
Thank you for a letter that is sure to be a real lifesaver not only for a four-footed friend, but also its two-footed guardian.