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Check before holiday emergencies where to take pets to a vet

20 April 2011

With five bank holidays in the next six weeks, pet owners should check they can get to a vet should they need one, advises the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons. In particular, owners should make sure they know what their practices’ arrangements are for out-of-hours emergencies. 


“Although some practices take a business-as-usual approach to bank holidays, many will be closed, so pet owners should check beforehand and find out what their vets’ arrangements are,” says RCVS Vice-President Dr Jerry Davies.

Finding a local vet should be as much part of preparation as packing a suitcase.

“In addition, owners seem increasingly to be taking pets with them on holiday in the UK, and finding a local vet should be as much part of preparation as packing a suitcase,” says Dr Davies.  “Locating a suitable practice is best done before you leave home and before something untoward has occurred.”

RCVS guidelines require veterinary surgeons take steps to provide out-of-hours cover for veterinary emergencies, and to tell their clients what their arrangements are. Different practices meet this requirement in different ways, with some practices teaming up with others to look after a bigger area, or contracting out to dedicated emergency-service providers.  Alternatively, veterinary surgeons may cover emergencies at their own practices, although not necessarily at all their branches. It is up to animal owners to find out, in advance, what to do and where to go should their animal need emergency treatment.

The easiest way to find practices in the UK is via the RCVS’s free online ‘Find-a-Vet’ service (, which can be searched by town or postcode. This also shows whether practices are accredited under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme – a voluntary scheme that helps promote and maintain the highest standards of veterinary care.

 So, when holidays are approaching, pet owners should remember the following: 

  • Check out your own vet’s emergency cover provisions and holiday opening hours; 
  • Use if you need to locate veterinary practices in your area or elsewhere in the UK;
  • Home visits are rare, even in an emergency, so be prepared to take your animal to a practice (which may be different to your usual practice), as that is where it can usually be treated best.  The practice should be able to offer advice on local services that are prepared to transport animals;
  • There is no NHS for pets: emergency treatments out-of-hours will often be more expensive (although vets are required to obtain clients’ consent for any non-emergency treatment);
  • If you’re leaving your pet with a friend or pet-sitter while you’re away, remember to leave them details of your vet’s emergency cover arrangements.

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