The UK’s newest pet hospital, Blaise, in Birmingham, is preparing for a festive flood of emergency cases as it gears up for its first Christmas.
A third of pet owners will experience an emergency this festive season and staff at the Midlands’ leading new pet emergency clinic will see a 79% rise in cases.
From mince pie misery to chocolate calamities, tinsel tussles to fireworks phobias, they are set for a huge surge in the numbers of worried owners rushing their pets for treatment.
The 24/7 A&E clinic is housed in the recently opened £10 million hospital in Birmingham’s Longbridge area. Additional vets and nurses will be on hand, working tirelessly throughout the festive period, and Doctor Marisa Lourenço, emergency and critical care (ECC) clinician, says it is crucial every single one of them understands owners’ anxieties.
“I always remind the team that we are the doctors no one wants to see, particularly at this time of year,” said Dr. Lourenço, who has worked extensively in emergency and critical care medicine and recently returned from the USA after completing her specialty training.
“People don’t want to have a seriously ill animal at any time and definitely not at Christmas when everyone is supposed to be having fun and emotions are running high anyway.”
“It can be incredibly stressful, and we need to be aware of what the pet families are going through.”
The A&E clinic at Blaise is run by Vets Now and, with 20 million pet cats and dogs in the UK, their 60-plus clinics and hospitals know they are a vital festive emergency service.
Last year they dealt with 958 cases of dogs ingesting chocolate and 667 cases of them eating mince pies, both of which can be poisonous. Christmas puddings and advent calendars were also responsible for urgent dashes to see a vet, as well as stuck turkey bones.
“With dogs, it’s almost always getting hold of some kind of food they shouldn’t have,” said Dr. Lourenço, who is currently in the Critical Care department. “This can cause bad food poisoning or worrying intoxications.
“We try to induce vomiting to empty their stomachs, and if so, then can hopefully go home. But with chocolate ingestion they may need to stay and be transferred to our Critical Care department.
“The chocolate can bring on potentially life-threatening cardiac problems which we need to treat with specific drugs and continuous ECG monitoring.
“We also see a lot of pets, usually cats, that have eaten decorations off the tree or swallowed tinsel. If this reaches the intestines, we may need to carry out emergency surgery to remove it.
“So, it’s really a case of families being extra careful to keep anything that could be hazardous away from their pets.”
The decorations at Blaise have been adding to the festive feel for the past few weeks, including a special “wish tree”.
Pet owners can donate £1 to the charity StreetVet by placing a bauble on the tree with their handwritten Christmas wish. All funds raised will go directly to StreetVet, which delivers care to the pets of people experiencing homelessness.
Such is the non-stop rush over the Christmas period, Dr. Lourenço says there’s no time for a proper turkey dinner and, along with the rest of the additional vets and nurses, it’ll be a case of snatching a snack between patients.
And even when the Christmas caseload eases, festive pet woes aren’t over.
“Over New Year we may see a lot of cases of dogs in particular with firework phobias,” said Dr. Lourenço.
“They can get terribly distressed, even having full scale panic attacks. Clients bring them to the emergency room in despair, but normally we are able to give medication to calm them down.
“And we recommend keeping them in quiet areas away from any firework noise.”