Here to help: After-hours veterinary clinic a boon to concerned pet owners
PRESCOTT - Owners of small pets encounter car accidents, dog fights with coyotes and javelinas, accidental swallowing of poisons and other traumas after hours.
The owners might not want to bother their daytime veterinarians, who have already worked 10- to 12-hour days. However, their pets might die if they wait until the next day instead of seeking emergency care.
The Prescott Area Pet Emergency Hospital opened this past weekend to serve owners of small animals and give a break to daytime veterinarians, and is the first such hospital in Arizona north of Phoenix. Located at 2245 Highway 69, across the street from Lowe's and U-Haul, it is open from 5:30 p.m. Fridays to 8 a.m. Mondays, with plans to expand after hours to every day of the week beginning July 1.
The staff saw 36 pets during the first weekend, higher than the projection of 25 pets, said D. Scott Reed, DVM and hospital director.
The hospital operates as an urgent care for small pets, including cats, dogs, reptiles, birds, rabbits and "pocket pets" such as hamsters. It provides X-rays, a lab, surgeries and overnight care. Fees are affordable, Reed said.
"We don't do routine care," Reed said. Spays, neutering and vaccines are not part of the services.
Reed and Ingrid Pyka, DVM, both classmates two decades ago at the veterinary school at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, helped to establish the emergency pet hospital with the support of veterinarians in western Yavapai County and the Verde Valley.
"The veterinarians chose Pres-cott," said Pyka. "This hospital is designed to work around the veterinarians in this area. They are the owners (of the hospital). It is board-run. And Dr. Reed is the manager. The veterinarians are on board."
Thirty-one people representing 12 veterinary practices invested in the emergency hospital, according to Reed, who also lives in Highlands Ranch and has rented an apartment near the clinic. The investors formed an advisory board that meets monthly.
One of the investors, Ken Skinner, is president of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association and is part owner of Prescott Animal Hospital, where he has worked for 10 years.
"The biggest point in having everybody invested is everybody is going to send their patients there" to the hospital, Skinner said. "The emergency clinic has some financial security."
Pet owners do not have to wait for an on-call veterinarians to return their calls after hours Fridays through Sundays, Skinner said.
Skinner, Pyka and Reed referred to pets as "patients."
Reed, who has spent most of his 20 years in veterinary medicine in emergency care, said he began organizing the hospital in March 2012.
It takes six months to a year to organize such a hospital and bring veterinarians on board, he said. He added renovating the 3,000-square-foot building took three months.
The hospital currently has one veterinarian and a veterinary nurse on staff at all times during business hours, but another veterinarian will be available if caseload and surgeries dictate his or her presence, Reed said.
The staff generally works 14-hour shifts, Reed said. He added the staff sends records electronically or via fax to the clients' daytime veterinarians.
Veterinary nurse Laura Phillips, who previously worked seven years for a Prescott Valley veterinarian, said she likes "the excitement of emergencies, not knowing what is coming in. Even at the other place we were on call."
Besides plans to expand to seven days a week in July, Reed said he is working on a similar venture in Flagstaff.
He said he plans to stay in Prescott for a year.
"Then, I usually move on to the next practice I am involved in," Reed said.
For more information, call Prescott Area Pet Emergency Hospital at 778-1990, or log onto www.prescottpetemergency.com.