An After-Hours Vet To Help When Your Vet’s Not There

An after-hours vet is just a phone call away.

An after-hours vet is just a phone call away.
Photo: © Anatoly Fedotov-Dreamstime.com

For some reason that only my cats understand, their medical emergencies always happen in the middle of the night when there’s no one to talk to and no place to go except the ER. As I’m packing the poor cat up to for that 20-minute car ride, I long for an after-hours vet who could talk with me and tell me whether this trip is really necessary.

Enter GuardianVets, a company that sounds almost like a throwback to the old days, when you could call your vet in the middle of the night and actually get your vet, not a voice mail message. GuardianVets provides an after-hours vet who will talk with you when your vet’s office is closed.

The company won the grand prize in Purina’s Pet Care Innovation competition at this year’s Global Pet Expo.

An After-Hours Vet When You Need One

To talk with an after-hours vet or vet tech, all you have to do is call your vet’s office. Calls are forwarded to GuardianVets, and a certified vet tech or licensed veterinarian will answer your call. 

They won’t diagnose your cat’s problem over the phone or recommend treatments, but they can tell you whether your cat needs to be seen now or if he can wait until your vet’s office opens. They can also make a next-day appointment for you. 

Although there are similar services online, GuardianVets is the exclusive after-hours triage service provider of the American Animal Hospital Association.

Can You Recognize A Medical Emergency



Can you recognize the signs that your cat is having a medical emergency? These are some signals that he needs to see a vet right away. 

  • Difficulty breathing. If you see heaving sides or open mouth breathing, your cat needs to see a vet now. Other signs of breathing problems are wheezing, coughing and unusual respiratory sounds.
  • Difficulty passing urineIn male cats, this is a life-threatening emergency. If your cat is making frequent trips to the litter box and passing little or no urine, straining to urinate, licking his genitals, vocalizing, seems to be in pain or is hiding, that vet visit can’t wait until morning. Other signs a cat is having potentially dangerous bladder issues are bloody urine and urinating outside the litter box. 
  • Severe pain and obvious distress. Signs include howling, panting, hiding, sitting or crouching in an unusual position and sometimes aggression. 
  • Sudden paralysis of a back leg, or aortic thrombosis. This is something to watch for if your cat has heart disease and requires immediate action. But if your cat has developed a blood clot in a back leg, don’t let your vet talk you into instant euthanasia. With treatment, including pain meds, many cats regain the use of their legs.
  • Ingesting toxins warrants an immediate trip to the vetOnions, coffee, chocolate, lilies and other plants, and antifreeze are just a few of the things that are toxic to cats. If you’re not sure, call the ASPCA’s poison control hotline, 888-426-4435.
  • Seizures. A cluster of seizures calls for immediate medical care.
  • An allergic reaction. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, difficulty breathing, facial swelling and hives or itchiness.

Sick Cats And Pet Sitters


What will your pet sitter do if your cat has a medical emergency? Be sure to leave a note authorizing her to get emergency care if necessary. And if your cat has a chronic illness, she’ll need written instructions and behavior to watch for that would indicate the cat is having problems.

Type the instructions. Handwritten notes can be hard to read, especially when the sitter is worried and nervous. Leave your cat’s medical records in a place where she can find them, too. They’ll be helpful if she has to take the cat to the ER.

This After-Hours Vet Is Free For You

There’s no charge for clients to use GuardianVets’ service, but veterinarians have to sign up for it. I’m going to talk to my vet. But I think I’ll send her an email so I don’t have to listen to that annoying recording telling me to call the ER. 

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