For some people, pets are considered members of the family, but what happens when that family member needs medical attention after hours?

Dr. Erin Gorney, a veterinarian and Medical Director at Glenwood Pet Hospital explained, "Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays we do have urgent care hours, they are from 7-11 p.m. and they can call right in and let us know they are on their way in, or they can stop right in without actually giving us a call. We triage the pet, look at what's going on and start from there and look at the next steps we need to take. We do not have Sunday or holiday hours." Glenwood Pet Hospital also sees exotic animals like gerbils, reptiles, and snakes on Thursdays after hours. To learn more about Glenwood Hospital, click here.

Some hospitals may not be equipped to handle the severity of the situation, whether its an emergency or not, so they have to refer pets and their owners to larger hospitals.

 As Dr. Gorney explained, "We always give the more complicated cases, if it's not an urgent case, the option of a referral if we are getting to the end of our scope of abilities or treatment options here and I would say it's something we discuss with our clients on a daily basis here and it's something we discuss, but it's up to them if they want to go that route or not, it varies."

Another ongoing issue is what people should do with an injured animal they find after hours. Nicole Leone, the Executive Director with the Erie Humane Society said, "In some cases we get a pet in and maybe the injury is minor and it can wait a little bit and go first thing in the morning, we can keep it nice and comfortable but we also have had many of us drive in the wee hours of the night when Glenwood isn't available when the PEC isn't available, and we ourselves, the Humane Society, we will take them to Metro Vet or we will take them to Pittsburgh." Glenwood Pet Hospital and the Erie Humane Society does have a relationship where the shelter can take animals that need care during after hours.

Some of the larger hospitals that get referrals from Erie are found in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Dr. Rachel Kellar, an Ophthalmologist and Medical Director at Blue Pearl Hospital in Pittsburgh said, "We actually see a large percentage of pets from outside the Pittsburgh area, so I would say anywhere from 30-50 percent depending on the day." To learn more about Blue Pearl Hospital, click here.

Doctors at Blue Pearl Hospital in Pittsburgh treat animals from all of the region and they are known for their 24-hour care and specialty services. "A 24 hour care is very unique to our hospital as there are only a few vets in the area that rely on our services but limitations in the vet industry in general", said Dr. Kellar.

Dr. Keller attributes the lack of 24-hour care due to vet shortages. "Vet medicine is a very difficult profession and so people are choosing different ways to still practice vet medicine. So overnight care might not be something they wanted to do long term."

But is there a solution to this ongoing problem in our area? As Leone explained, "It would be really ideal for a emergency vet hospital to be available 24 hours, not only for pets at the Erie Humane Society, but for the community in general." To learn more about the Erie Humane Society, click here.