Who Watches Your Dog Overnight at the Veterinarian

watches dog overnight

As a first time dog mom, I made mistakes. I suppose any mom of the world has made a mistake or two with her child at some point in life. I shouldn’t beat myself up. Alas, I do. It’s a fiber of who I am: I love my dog that much. You see, there are myths to what really happens when you leave your dog at the vet overnight. You want to believe that someone is there. You want to believe that your dog, who never sees the inside of a kennel, is being watched over. You want to believe that you are staring at the ceiling at home and all the while, your dog is slumbering and resting with pain medication controlling any discomfort from surgery. You want to believe.

There are myths to what really takes place when you let your pet at the veterinarian for overnight care. This article does not address standard kenneling/boarding and what happens. The purpose of this blog post is to inform dog parents the realities of what happens when you leave your dog overnight in a veterinary facility.

A Cold Brush With The Truth

When I dropped my then Cocker Spaniel off at the veterinary facility, circa 1994, I was a first time adult dog mom. Granted, we had a family dog growing up, but other than spay/neuter, I cannot recall the dogs ever getting major surgery. My little girl required a delicate eye surgery, and the procedure would require an overnight stay.

When you give your child over to the nurse at the hospital for surgery to begin, I would imagine the same feelings are experienced. You feel out of control and you need to muster the strength to believe in the doctors that they will do the right thing. I always pray: It’s just who I am. Thank Dog for my wife: We go through these things together.

Since 1994, I’ve learned to wait at the veterinary office for my dog. If he is having surgery, we are there waiting. Again, it’s just who we are.

Brandy Noel BryantWell, if I knew then what I know now, the outcome may have been different.

When we arrived the next morning to pick our little girl up, the veterinarian ushered us into an exam room and then summoned a nurse to get Brandy. When the dog appeared, I am certain a look of shock enveloped my face. Why was there a large amount of dried blood on her face, near her eye, and obviously it had pooled there overnight or at least for some period of time.

When we asked about the blood, the vet became adamant, stating, “Well some dogs don’t leave the wound alone and she must have pawed at it overnight.”

I get as sick now as I did then reliving those words.

“No one is here overnight, so we can’t monitor them 24/7.”

You could have knocked me over with a pin. Here comes the big “A” word: I assumed that someone was there overnight to watch the dogs, or at least check in on them. I mean, it is a veterinary center where delicate surgeries take place. Shouldn’t someone at least be checking on the animals?

Um, in a nutshell: No. But maybe, sometimes.

Here’s the Scoop

Many veterinary practices do not have the staff nor budget to have someone present around the clock. Yes, you read that right the first time, but just in case, many veterinary practices do not have the staff nor budget to have someone present around the clock. The bottom line, however, is there is a portion of pet parents who don’t understand how to keep a dog quiet and calm postoperatively. Many veterinarians feel that an office is a quieter, and perhaps even safer, place to rest.cocker_veterinarian

If your pet is staying overnight at the veterinary facility and there is not someone to monitor the animal overnight, this is concerning on several levels:

What if there is a delayed side effect to anesthesia or pain medicine?

What if the wound(s) open?

What if the dog is in pain?

What if the animal rips an IV out?

What about water intake?

As of this writing, there is no written law that requires a veterinary facility to have a staff member on site to monitor animals overnight who had surgery that day. Many pet parents believe someone is present, and this is not the case.

Veterinary Hospitals

Most veterinary hospitals and emergency facilities do have someone on staff (usually more than one person) monitoring the animals in their care overnight. This is completely a different scenario than a regular clinic. When our dog, Brandy, required major surgery at Cornell Small Animal Hospital for a patellar luxation (knee issue), we stayed at a nearby hotel. We visited her during visiting hours, and she was wheeled out to see us. The surgery was major and our little girl needed the care and pain management control that only a skilled veterinary hospital of this magnitude could provide. She refused to eat for them, and when she refused to drink, we were summoned. She wanted her mamas. The staff saw after one night that it was best she go home with us.

In talking to the staff at the hospital, we were informed that yes, someone is there watching the surgical patients and monitoring them overnight. This put our minds at ease, and it also taught me never ever to assume someone is watching my dog at the vet when I am not there.

dog_veterinarian
“Can I have a cookie for being a good boy at the vet?”

Are All Veterinarians the Same?

Not really. The best thing to do is ask your pet’s veterinarian if someone monitors the pets overnight after surgeries. If you do not feel comfortable with leaving a pet overnight, you will usually be required to sign a waiver that allows you to take the pet and not later sue the vet should something happen to your pet in your care. I’ve never had this situation. The surgeries my dogs have had ever since were same day type surgeries. If the time comes that I need to leave my dog at a veterinary facility, it will only be one where someone is present overnight to monitor him.

Some folks like knowing their veterinary facility has the AAHA seal of approval. AAHA is the American Animal Hospital Association, and it is a voluntary accreditation. Click here to learn more about AAHA standards and accreditation, and how they impact the health of your pet. This does not guarantee overnight monitoring, but the AAHA title is meaningful for some folks.

dog at veterinarian

What Can A Pet Parent Do?

Don’t leave your dog alone at the vet overnight without someone present unless this cannot be avoided. I would absolutely have my dog transferred to a facility that has overnight monitoring, but that’s me. Things do go wrong when animals are left alone overnight. This is not an exercise in finger pointing, just a fi-dose of reality. Caveat emptor, all that jazz. A well-informed pet parent is a pet’s best friend.

By the Way

Brandy recovered from her eye surgery, we cleaned her up on our own at home, and we fired that vet for his horrid demeanor to us and lack of regard for our dog. On top of that, who hands a bloodied animal over to her parents and has no regard for the dog’s appearance and how the parents feel?

There are plenty of qualified vets out there, and you can read about picking a good veterinarian here.

Never assume that the worst can’t happen to you and your pet. It happens every day. Just be prepared and get all questions answered.

Medicine Vs. Mom

Rachel Sheppard is a former veterinary technician, and every few weeks I co-author a series with her, “Medicine Vs. Mom.” For her perspective on this topic, head on over to My Kid Has Paws and get the scoop from a vet tech angle.

medicine versus mom

QUESTION: Have you ever left a pet overnight at the veterinarian? Did you ask if someone was present to monitor the pet?

Like this article? Check out

What Happens When My Dog Undergoes Surgery

How to Say No to the Veterinarian

How to Divorce Yourself from the Veterinarian

 

Comments

    • Yes, it is frightening. I can do a better job with my dog with me at night, so he will never stay or if he has to, I will be sure it is 24/7 staffed at a specialty hospital.

      • Hi Carol, in New Jersey, there’s actually a law that passed in Sept. 2015. Please Google Betsy’s Law…..or Madeleine Kaiser. The story will ring a bell with what you’ve written.

        I live in Ohio, and Madeleine is trying to help me get this law passed here in Ohio. It actually took her about 8 yrs to get the law passed after her puppy Rottweiler – who also went in for a simple eyelid surgery – died because no overnight supervision at the vet – Betsy strangled herself because of the collar she was wearing. I’m trying to get it passed in Ohio because my friend’s dog (who is her working dog) – died at the vets office – no one was there to supervise.

        Best of luck in reaching Madeleine. She’s working on a book to present her story.

        • I am going to reach out to her. I appreciate that heads up. It is so sad. And that could have been my dog: She had an eye surgery and what horror when we picked her up. I learned the hard way. It is so sad and so scary and it must change.

        • Oh my G-D!Poor Betsy baby! Dying in such a way!Oh no no NO!!I can’t take reading these horror stories that didn’t have to happen.Pure neglect & a bit of “I don’t give a sh1t because it’s just a job”by the staff!

    • They say 24/7 so it tricks people into thinking that someone is actually there. What this usually means is that they are a clinic with a phone number you can call if you have an emergency after hours and a vet might meet you there. A little lie into getting clients to think that someone is with their pet IN the clinic overnight. If your dog has surgery and really needs to be monitored or has to have IV’s etc, the best thing to do is transfer your pet to a REAL 24/7 ER where someone is actually there. If your pet has surgery and doesn’t need to be there TAKE THEM HOME! If something happens in the middle of the night then you can actually SEE your pet needs help and you can get them to a REAL 24/7 ER. So that 24/7 sign in the window is basically FALSE ADVERTISING. But oh what a wonderful way to rack up your bill by telling you that your pet needs to stay overnight when it’s not necessary and in reality they are there ALL ALONE.
      http://www.facebook.com/regretavetveterinarynegligence

  1. That is a good reminder. I doubt my local vet has overnight supervision, but there are excellent veterinary hospitals in my area and I’m sure they have coverage there.

      • A few years ago I had to leave my best friend at a vets overnite after surgery. I asked if there was someone there to take care of him. I checked out as best as I could at the time. It was emergency surgery that my dog Goofy had to have.
        In the morning To my great surprise the Vet and a Nurse was there to look after my baby., all night long. I being a good Mom was crying all night while my baby was walking around the hospital and also was put to bed. I will always go back to this Vet hosp. It was in Vegas on tropicanna just past the airport. They were the best. I still rant and rave about them. Which is why I am telling you all about him. Goofy is a trucking dog, He and I travel north america togather. He always gets the best care I can give him, and as you can tell pampered also.

  2. Oh poor baby. Our specialty hospital has 24/7 monitoring and even visiting hours to see your baby
    Love & Peas,
    Lily & Edward

  3. Well, that settles it. Bentley and Pierre can never stay overnight at the vet unless they let me pull up a cot and sleep there too! That is so scary to think about. It is the same way when you board your pet at the vet. Thanks for shedding some light on the truth.

  4. Excellent post, and so important! Whenever you leave your pet overnight, be it a Veterinarian’s office or a boarding facility it’s critical to ensure that someone is there to check on your pet throughout the night. We use two Veterinarians; one on the East coast and one on the West coast since we divide our time between NY and Phoenix. Our Phoenix Vet has a Vet Tech that’s been with him for many years and lives 5 minutes away. In the middle of the night he goes back to the office to check on any pets staying there overnight. We love Ken and felt comfortable knowing that when my Husky was ill he would look in on her throughout the night. Our NY Vet is a 24/7 hospital that is staffed with both Dr.’s and Vet Techs overnight. They are a bit pricey but we think it’s worth it. In terms of just boarding, you probably heard about the tragedy that occurred at the Green Acre Dog Boarding facility in Gilbert AZ last year. More than 20 dogs died on a sizzling hot Summer night because the air conditioning went out and no one was there to see that these poor dogs were dying of heat exhaustion. The dogs all died overnight and the owners tried to cover it up. I use PetSmart for boarding because I know they have staff overnight and there is a checklist they must complete as they check on the pets in their care throughout the night. Anything can happen during an overnight stay of any kind, but especially at the Vet’s office when a pet is convalescing. Carol, I’m glad you fired that Vet, what an unprofessional, uncaring clod!

  5. It makes me want to cry. We have a great vet and our good friend works there overnight so we know we’re protected but I would suggest pet parents read this post!

  6. Yes just once. They said we had to bring him in the evening before surgery. Not anymore! I refuse to take my dogs to the vet overnight before surgery. I know they eat or drink but they are not staying in a kennel all night. I want to know the time of surgery if it is in the afternoon I will take them in before surgery not in the morning for them to sit in the kennel waiting. So far they have let me bring them home before they close. Otherwise I am going to sleep at the vets office all night with my dogs.
    I am not a very good patient.. When I had my thyroid surgery I told the doctor take it out and I am going home. Well, I did go home that night. I feel the same way about my dogs. Surgery then let them go home.

    • You know, I find that the vets often tell you to leave the dog overnight (alone in most cases) with them, Sharon, as a convenience to them. I would rather get up with the rooster and go in than to know my dog is sitting in a kennel alone overnight. That makes no sense to have a client do otherwise.

      YAY for you on going home. Statistics show people (and pets) recover well in their own home.

  7. Mom has never left any of us overnight at the vet.She feels we are better off at home with her in our own bed, but there are things that happen which would cause us to have to spend the night and I know she would be a wreck whether there was someone there to watch us or not. She might actually find a way to put herself in a kennel if need be to be near us! We’ve never asked at our clinic as we don’t ever intend to stay the night.

  8. How upsetting! I can’t imaging my fur baby being all alone at the vets after surgery.
    I wonder if there are any that will keep the animals with them or if they hire a night shift?
    I always assumed they had someone there….

  9. I could never understand why they ask you to leave the dog overnight and then no one is there. I think a vet tech should be on duty if sick dogs are in residence overnight. Now, when Lou was very ill with heat stroke he spent 4 nights at the emergency vet center. There was round the clock vets etc working to save him. I won’t tell you what those 4 nights cost, but I wouldn’t trade a cent for the 6 extra years I got in return.

    • Amen and I bet that you are so glad that you had someone with him. Many hugs, Val. Good to see you here.

  10. I always wondered that. They can either A) not leave the Dogs overnight for whatever procedure or B) Have specified days when they pay a person to stay overnight. It must be quite traumatic when they leave their homes and have to fight for space in a new environment,

  11. Wow – I would have been so upset that there was no monitoring overnight! This is really something to think about. We have boarded our dog a few times when we travel but there is always someone there overnight with the dogs.

    • Depending on the boarding facility, they may not have staff overnight. I know some really do not. It is good you have one who does have staff on hand.

  12. When my first Cocker, Mia had to stay for 5 days at the Vet Specialty Hospital for IMHA treatment, I knew she would monitored because it is a 24 hour facility with visiting hours until 10 p.m. Plus, I was given info about her progress as tracked over 24 hour periods. On one of my visits, I noticed a funny pinkish smudge on Mia’s head. I thought it was blood and asked the vet tech who was assigned to her. The tech looked at it, blushed and said, “I’m sorry. That’s my lipstick. She was getting a blood draw and I was giving her kisses for you.” Naturally, I cried and also gave the tech a gift when Mia was released.

    • OMD Naomi I just about started crying – how beautiful that the tech cared so much —- that is beautiful.

  13. Thanks for the great information. We have never had to leave our dogs overnight, but I will keep this in mind if we ever do. I’m really shocked that after a surgery some places don’t have an overnight staff.

  14. Oh my gosh. I never never in a million years thought the staff wouldn’t be around the clock when a pet is staying over. That’s actually alarming.

  15. Why I don’t trust allopathic vets and only use holistic/homeopathic ones. Less likely he would ever need to be there in the first place. If my dog stays, I stay. Same rule at the groomer.

  16. We learnt about the degrees of overnight monitoring when Charlie was seriously ill as a kitten with calcivirus. The vet wanted us to admit him overnight and keep him on fluids yet the surgery was unattended between 6pm and 8am. I was also told that he might not make it through the night. He would have been on his own in a strange place, with strange smells – it wasn’t an option for me. I took him home and syringed fluids into him every hour throughout the night and used icepacks to get his body temp down. By the morning his temperature was out of the danger zone, and whilst he was sick for over a week he did recover. I’m not sure if the outcome would’ve been the same if we’d have left him unmonitored in a cage on his own overnight.

  17. We left our dog, Scout overnight at the vet following his neutering surgery. I did ask if someone would be there to monitor him during the night and was surprised to hear that there wouldn’t be. They did assure me that someone stayed until late in the evening. Also, I could come first thing in the morning to pick him up. I was somewhat worried about surgery complications going unnoticed during the night, but since his procedure was so routine and minor I was more concerned about how he would feel being left alone in a cage all night. He was used to sleeping under the covers on our bed. I would have brought him home that night, but it wasn’t presented as an option. Plus, we have another dog and they do play rough. So the next morning I was there to pick him up. Everything was fine, thankfully, but we did need to get an e-collar for him to wear so I imagine he was licking himself all night long. We also had a really hard time keeping him from running around, going up and down the stairs and jumping onto things. It was like he was unfazed. The vet even provided us with a sedative because he was so wound up. It didn’t help much, but in the end he healed up perfectly with no infection or other complications. Even though it worked out okay for us, if either of our dogs ever needed major surgery that required them to stay overnight, I would want them to be someplace with 24 hour monitoring.

    • It is scary and I really never knew until our Brandy had no overnight monitoring. A lot of times these days, the vets try to send the dogs home the same day to avoid issues overnight where there is no supervision.Glad it all worked out for your dog with the overnight stay, Emily.

  18. Great post! Should go a long way in educating the public about an issue they probably don’t think about until it’s too late. If you haven’t heard about Betsy’s Law in New Jersey, it is a law recently passed that requires vets to inform their clients that there is no overnight supervision at their facilities. I posted it on my Facebook page, the Veterinary Abuse Network, educating pet guardians about potential dangers at the vet’s.
    https://www.facebook.com/veterinaryabusenetwork/posts/1047394348644384?comment_id=1047465765303909&reply_comment_id=1047505161966636&total_comments=2&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R6%22%7D

    Thanks again for a very informative post and thank God little Brandy is okay. Both of you have no doubt saved lives!

  19. Wow. Sick dogs, left alone overnight. I understand that many offices don’t have the resources (and I doubt a single vet within hours of me does) but.. dang. I’m thankful I haven’t yet had to leave a dog overnight, but I don’t know what I’m going to do if that time comes. Thanks for your post!

  20. Very important post! I knew this and am fortunate to have a vet who gets me. Kirby has had two surgeries. The first minor one when he was neutered. I called every hour to check on him and picked him up as soon as they let me. His big surgery was when he was a year old. He was bitten in the groin area by a large dog on Memorial Day. My vet met us at the clinic and performed the surgery. We then waited a few hours to be sure there was no adverse reactions before I took him home which she knew I would do. He was in a lot of pain and didn’t move til nearly 10:30 the next morning. I kept him on a dog bed I moved from room to room so I was always near him to comfort when he cried and monitor his pain medication. Neither of us got much sleep that night but Kirby was never fearful because he was all alone. All he had to do was open his eyes or move an inch to have me right there soothing him.

    When my daughter was getting married he had to stay at the PetSmart Hotel for a few days. They have round-the-clock employees, a vet on call, and to escape he would have to get past three doors.

  21. I wouldn’t want my pets left in the hands of veterinarians without me being there. There are so many bad veterinarians out there and we can’t get rid of them. The stress on our pets in a veterinary hospital, even a good one, is tremendous because we can’t make them understand what is going on. I have friends whose dog died in vet care overnight and unattended and they will never know what happened to him. No one does because no one was there.

  22. I work at a clinic, but even if I didn’t, I know the word “clinic” doesn’t mean “hospital”. I can not speak for all clinics but we do surgery early in the morning so we have all day and most of the evening to monitor them. We never leave the clinic unless we feel comfortable doing so. We also have someone that checks on them at some point in the middle of the night. As far as pain management, if you administer before leaving in the pm and arrive early in the am the pet should be fine. Yes always ask if they have someone there overnight if it’s a concern, but please don’t assume that because some clinics don’t, that it means your pet is suffering or neglected. We are a hard working, animal loving family and we want your pet to get the same treatment that we would give our own, and that is the truth! I personally have stayed many a night past my ending shift, laying in floor with a pet just to offer comfort.

    • I respectfully disagree on this, Jane, and I appreciate you coming in. If a pet is alone, this needs to be told to the pet parent. A pet can do any number of things alone: Rip an IV line (mine has), bleed, be in pain, etc. Anything can happen. If I knew then what I know now, I would have had my beloved dog stay at a hospital, not a clinic, not a vet center. I love that you have stayed many times helping a pet who needed comfort. Not all pets get the same comfort in a cage alone vs being at home or being in a facility where they can be monitored overnight. At the very least, transparency is key to the pet parent.

  23. It doesn’t matter if you ask them if they have post op care/overnight care.Get to know the staff.Find out if they are able to make decisions on your pet’s care.I LOVE animals & I know that if I worked in a pet clinic that I would NOT leave them for a moment post op!

    My precious paw wrapping, neck nuzzling,kiss-giving,loved to snuggle & very huggable brecaphalic faced cat DIED after already being awake & about after his surgeries & his vaccinations.THEY left him unattended & upon their return he was dead on the bottom of the cage!!!!I love him so much.I trusted this vet that I’d known forever.WHY DID THEY LEAVE MY CAT-A BRECEPHALIC FACED CAT-THAT HAD ALL READY BEEN THERE BEFORE TO BE EXAMINED AFTER HE HAD STRESSED OUT DURING HIS VERY QUICK GROOMING?!?!WHY?

    I was shocked to say the least when I got the news(still am).However when the vet mentioned the details of when he died – I was in disbelief.I was repeating NO!NO!NO! over & over & over.THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.SOMEONE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE WATCHING HIM!WHY DIDN’T THEY?!
    People keep on telling me to to fight & get my money back.I don’t want my money back – I want my cat back!So since I am NEVER GOING to snuggle my Poopsie Whoopsie again, the only thing I can do is discuss what happened with the vet & his staff when I am ready to make sure that THEY WILL NEVER LEAVE someone’s pet or any animal unattended during care & especially after surgery.

    PS-What sickened me even more is it looked like my baby died from shock.(bluish purply tongue -light lilac gums).I even asked the young lady the night before to make sure to give him snuggles & kissses.When she giggled -I even looked at her seriously & said I’m not joking!Please do that!…..And when I paid the bill to them for killing my cat,so classy as they are, they left the POST OP CARE INSTRUCTIONS on my bill!

    No no no.Find out what a clinic’s protocol is regarding post op.If they do not have enough staff so that the animals are NEVER left unattended then either yourself, a good friend, or even a try to hire an animal technician to stay until you can get your babies home.

  24. I appreciate your comment about how you should look for veterinarians that are skilled. I think it’s interesting how you said that you should pick a place that you can visit often. My husband and I are looking into animal hospitals with vets that allow you to visit your pet when you are there.

  25. It made me feel relieved when you said that there will one or more staffs watching the animal when they are admitted to an animal hospital. My dog has been really feeling unwell these days due to a sickness that I do not know yet, and I am worried that he might undergo a surgery when I take him to a vet. If he does, he will be confined for a couple of days. So thanks for the information!

  26. Excellent information, I live in Miami Florida and had to leave my 11 years old Juicy at different vet’s offices because she is diabetic and I found out that they are left alone, and I think it is not right because they charge a lot for this service when the poor dogs and cats stays in a jail box of 10 hours by themselves. There should be a law to cover this issue. tks!

  27. My Australian Shepard was hit by a car when he accidentally got out of our yard.. While that was terrifying enough the emergency vet clinic we took him to originally probably would have killed him had we let them do the surgery on our boy. He was covered in his own urine when we picked him up. it was awful. We had him moved to the University of Florida Vet clinic where they were able to save his shoulder, (the original vet clinic said we would have to amputate). Tucker is alive and healthy now and can run and play like nothing ever happened. At the UF hospital he was well cared for and while it was still really hard that he had to be away from me they were great.

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