All veterinary clinics are so busy! With a long waiting list and lack of available appointments, it is hard to know how to handle when cases need to be seen right away. How do you handle the cat who is starting to incessantly itch causing lesions? What about the dog with an acute, painful otitis? In episode 87 of The Derm Vet podcast, I talk to emergency veterinarian Dr. Nell Dalton (WestVet in Boise, ID) about these issues.

Since owners are having a hard time getting into their general veterinarian, there is an increase amount of dermatologic patients trying presenting to the emergency veterinary clinic. This can be acute moist dermatitis (“hot spots”), otitis and general allergic itch. Dr. Dalton communicates with owners that life-threatening emergencies take precedent, but she tries to accommodate dermatology patients as much as she can. Knowing these pets and clients are having their quality of life affected by the itch, lesions, etc. This may include collecting diagnostics and phoning the owner later with results or arranging a drop off appointment where the pet can stay in the clinic until time allows.

When clients call in wanting fixes over the phone, Dr. Dalton does not recommend the use of antihistamines due to the general lack of efficacy allowing progression of itch to cause infections a concern. History is really important in these cases. Could there be easy fixes that could be recognized by taking the time to collect history? Did flea control get missed? An abnormal snack the food allergic pet got into? Did the client stop an antipruritic not understanding use was meant to be chronic? You can also train your technicians, assistants and client service representatives to communicate the importance of a recheck (performing diagnostics, identifying infection, etc.). Rechecks are essential in the management of the allergic pet especially when a flare is occurring.

But, with a full schedule, how do you try and keep pets comfortable while they wait for their scheduled appointment? There are many potential options such as implementing topical therapy, telemedicine appointment, considering a refill of a past antipruritic that may have been helpful, etc.

Remember empathy for frustrated clients is a skill that will ultimately lead to relief for their pets. When we can relate to them and communicate, we have the best opportunity to make progress with a treatment plan and provide comfort for that pet. Check out the podcast episode linked below to learn more!

This podcast was sponsored by Zoetis. Zoetis is dedicated to changing the way we approach canine pruritus to protect the bonds between the pet, the owner and the veterinary team. Visit for more information.