Emergency care a success; 1st anniversary for vet clinic


Dr. Christine Iacovetta, left, and Emily Malfroid, a veterinary technician, right, examine Merlin, who is actually a cat who lives at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine Pet Emergency Treatment Services on Southwest 27th Avenue in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. The emergency pet treatment facility has been open for a year in Ocala.

Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Star-Banner
Published: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 5:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 5:16 p.m.

Until a year ago, Dr. Frances Ramirez never knew whether she would sleep through the night.

The Summerfield veterinarian said the odds were always good that at any time one of her patients' owners would call the clinic with an emergency that required rushing to treat an ailing animal.

About five times every month she would get such a call and head to the office. The story was the same for the three other veterinarians at Country Oaks Veterinarian Clinic.

"It could be as simple as diarrhea or getting kicked by a horse, hit by a car or a snake bite," she said of the emergencies.

In many cases, Ramirez or her fellow veterinarians would stay the night at the clinic with the treated animal until the day crew relieved them.

That changed a year ago with the opening of the Pet Emergency Treatment Services clinic in Ocala. As it marks its first anniversary, the University of Florida-owned clinic, 3200 SW 27th Ave., near the Paddock Mall, is being hailed as a success by local vets and clinic officials.

Dr. Dana Zimmel, chief of staff for the UF Veterinary Hospitals, would not say whether the clinic was financially profitable, but did say the clinic was meeting its projected business plan.

The clinic, which has one or two veterinarians and three to four clinicians on staff during any given night, sees 70 or 80 animals per week, Zimmel said.

The clinic is staffed with UF veterinarians and was created in coordination with Marion County veterinarians.

Zimmel said there have not been many clinical or operational surprises for employees during the first year. The rotating veterinary staff already had significant experience in emergency care.

She said many pet owners know about the 5,000-square–foot facility and its 5 p.m.– 8 a.m. operating hours. Getting the word out has not proven to be a problem.

Dr. Carsten Bandt, an assistant professor at UF's College of Veterinary Medicine and a specialist in emergency medicine, said the clinic provides the same level of advanced emergency care as pet owners could find at UF.

"Initially, from Day One, we were busy," he said, adding that many vets switched their after-hours phones over to the emergency clinic.

Many of the animals brought to the clinic are having heart problems, pregnancy complications, kidney issues or toxicity; the latter condition is often due to pets eating their owner's medicines, he said.

Marion County once had two after-hours pet emergency locations, but both closed in 2011.

Until the UF clinic was established, area residents had to take their pets to Gainesville or Leesburg for after-hours care. Either that, or local vets like Ramirez had to open their offices in the middle of the night.

One of the clinic's more memorable early cases involved a bear mauling a pot-bellied pig. Bandt said the pig tried to take refuge in his plastic igloo shelter, but the black bear stilled managed to injure the pig's hind legs.

The clinic's permanent resident is Merlin, a cat found at an area animal shelter. The cat is used as a blood donor when transfusions are needed. The cat has had to donate blood only once in the past four months, Bandt said.

Bandt said the clinic also works closely with area veterinarians, keeping them informed about pets' medical conditions and giving them access to emergency records and test results.

As for the clinic's finances, Bandt said: "It wasn't about the money. We wanted to have a good relationship with the vets … and provide good veterinary emergency care in the community."

For more information about the clinic, attending staff can be reached at 512-0886.

Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157 or fred.hiers@starbanner.com.

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