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Emergency Services at MVA

Emergency Services at MVA: Everything You Need to Know

By Shara Bankhead, BS, CVT

Since 1986, MVA has not only provided the highest quality specialty veterinary medicine, but the discipline of extraordinary emergency medicine has been part of our mission as well.

The Emergency Service is fully equipped with not only high-end, human-grade diagnostic equipment – digital x-ray, ultrasound, CT Scanner, MRI and in-house laboratory – there are also highly experienced emergency clinicians as well as critical care specialists on staff and our boarded surgeons are available on-call 24/7/365 to address any and all surgical emergencies as they arise.

Our support staff of veterinary nurses and assistants are experienced, compassionate, and dedicated to their patients. They provide the highest quality medical management in a calm, professional and attentive manner. The nurses provide the doctors with the support they need to perform the necessary emergent procedures and are the ones who spend 1:1 time with their patients. Our nurses are proficient at performing diagnostic testing, administering medications, placing IV catheters, inducing and monitoring anesthesia and much more. Our veterinary assistants are a vital part of our team, ensuring that our nurses and doctors are fully able to perform their duties efficiently and effectively. They not only care for patients regularly, but they are responsible for ensuring the hospital remains clean and functional, maintaining patient comfort through providing basic needs and cleanliness, and ensuring that lab work and other diagnostics are handled in a timely fashion.

The entire Emergency Service (ES) team runs like a well-oiled machine which is essential in the organized chaos of an emergency room. You can rest assured that you and your pet are in the best of hands when you arrive.

When one is faced with the decision to bring a furry family member to the ER, there are more than a few things that are likely being contemplated prior to doing so. Before making the trip to the ER, in particular MVA, these are some excellent steps to take and/or questions to ask:

What is considered to be a true animal emergency?

Any condition or event that is life-threatening or crucial in nature. These include but are not limited to:

Animal is unresponsive; no pulse detected
Sudden collapse
Respiratory distress/difficulty breathing

  • Open mouth breathing in cats


  • That last longer than 1 minute
  • Occur more than 3 times in a 24-hour period
  • Is the 1st seizure that has occurred

Traumatic Event

  • Hit-by-Car
  • Bite Wounds
  • Electrocution
  • Near drowning
  • Broken limb

Uncontrollable bleeding
Swollen abdomen
Excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea

  • Dark, tarry stool

Unable to urinate
Note eating or drinking for > 24 hours
A pre-existing condition that has suddenly changed/worsened:

  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Adrenal disorders
  • Asthma
  • Others

What can a pet owner do before they head to the ER at MVA?

Call us at 610-666-1050 and speak with one of our CSR’s or support team to talk through what you’re experiencing with your pet to determine if:

  • It is a true emergent/urgent concern
  • Seeing your primary care veterinarian would be sufficient
  • Monitoring your pet at home is advisable

If it’s determined that your pet is experiencing one of the above conditions, and needs to be seen we would request that:

  • All records (physical exam, lab work, x-rays, etc.) from the primary veterinarian be sent ahead of time or brought in

How can a pet owner help to alleviate anxiety in their pets either at home or when they’re on their way to the ER at MVA?

If the pet has a known anxiety associated with the car, or veterinary visits there are prescription medications to address this. Please discuss the options with a primary care veterinarian and have these on hand, and if safe to do so, administer 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to travel.

Other ways to address and lessen stress include but are not limited to:

  • Pheromone sprays, wipes, and/or collars (Feliway® for cats, Adaptil ® for dogs)
  • ThunderShirt®
  • Soothing music – there are playlists on YouTube and Spotify that have been created by veterinary behaviorists and have been shown to work for some pets

What happens when a pet owner arrives with their pet in a life-threatening situation?

Time allowing, the owner will have called prior to let our CSRs at the front desk know of an ETA, which is then relayed to the entire ES team.

If there’s not time to call/notify MVA prior to arrival, as soon as an owner arrives the front desk will send an overhead announcement to the ES team to come up ASAP.

A nurse or nurses will meet the owner at the entrance/in the lobby to initially assess their pet, ask for permission to administer treatments, perform CPR if necessary, etc.

The pet will be taken to the ER where nurses begin any approved lifesaving actions, a doctor will immediately evaluate the pet, and initial treatments and/or diagnostics will be performed.

The pet owner will be asked to remain in the lobby or will be escorted to a private exam room by one of our CSRs.

As soon as possible, the doctor will meet with the owner(s) to update them on the situation and discuss the medical plan moving forward.

We have modified all of the above steps in order to appropriately adhere with the Commonwealth of PA and the AVMA COVID-19 protocols for you, your pets’ and our team’s safety. For detailed information please refer to the following websites:

As one can imagine, the life and times in a Veterinary ER is very similar to that of a human ER, and our team members take their jobs very seriously to provide the utmost of veterinary medical care to the animals, but also ensure that the pet owners are treated with kindness and compassion as this is a stressful event for all involved. Here at MVA we dedicate ourselves to providing excellent service, exceptional skill, and extraordinary care from the front desk to the ER floor. We are here for you and your pets, 24/7/365 – and we always will be.

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