Emergency pet care facilities stay busy on holiday


PITTSBURGH — Pet sitter Lauren Welsh was waiting Thanksgiving morning for a diagnosis of the intestinal problems Louie had been having.

Louie, an American Eskimo dog she is caring for this week, had been vomiting and suffering from diarrhea for several days, she said.

A canine version of the BRAT diet — boiled chicken and rice — hadn’t solved the problem so Ms. Welsh, who lives in Carnegie, Pa., took Louie to the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Ohio Township.

Louie was one of 14 emergency cases to arrive by 11 a.m. on Thursday. The pets were being cared for by four veterinarians, 11 technicians, and two assistants working on the holiday morning.

Veterinary specialists in surgery, oncology, and internal medicine also stopped by during the day to check on their cases.

“When we interview job candidates, we let them know we operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Kenton D. Rexford, clinic owner and veterinarian. “Everyone shares equally in the holiday shifts,” he said. “I’ll be working Christmas Eve and Christmas.”

The symptoms among the cats and dogs mimic those found in a hospital serving humans.

The animals were being treated for seizures, gastrointestinal problems, difficulty breathing, a bone fracture, and back pain. Another 30 animals were being cared for as inpatients. Some were connected to heart monitors or received supplemental oxygen.

Thanksgiving doesn’t bring a host of unique cases, although there is an increased risk of mayhem when animals from two families are brought together.

Susan Brian, who lives on a farm outside Sidney, Ohio, is visiting her sister Peggy Denning in Ben Avon, Pa., for the holiday. Mrs. Brian said Simba, her 10-year-old shih tzu, always had gotten along with her sister’s two larger dogs, a Siberian husky and a samoyed, until Tuesday. Simba, who is blind, must have come too close to the husky while he was eating, and the larger dog bit his face.

The veterinarians prescribed painkillers and antibiotics, and recommended an appointment for dental X-rays when Mrs. Brian returns to Ohio. Mrs. Brian said Simba had stopped shaking and appeared to be on the mend.

“It’s wonderful having a center like this,” she said.

Ms. Welsh, who was waiting for the results of blood tests and an X-ray to help diagnose Louie’s stomach woes, agreed.

“The folks here are heroes — working every holiday and all night long,” she said.

As someone who has worked with both people as a pharmacy technician and with pets as a veterinary tech, she said she had found fringe benefits in dealing with animals.

“I tell people that I get paid in puppy kisses and kitty purrs,” Ms. Welsh said.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Len Barcousky is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.