Anne Arundel Veterinary Clinic
Emergency Care for Annapolisís Prized Pets

One night, long after your local vet’s office has closed its doors for the day, you may realize that Fido has just swallowed your gym sock or that Fluffy hasn’t eaten for two days. Don’t panic—help is as near as 808 Bestgate Road, where the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic offers a number of round-the-clock emergency services and plenty of tender loving care for your ailing pet.

Dr. Tom Kozek opened this walk-in veterinary office when he moved to Anne Arundel County in 1991. It remains the only emergency care clinic in Annapolis and over the years its staff has mushroomed to more than 85 employees. That translates to 20 veterinarians, 28 veterinary technicians, 12 veterinary assistants, 15 client service representatives and a sizable administrative staff.

There are always two to four emergency vets on hand to handle the cases that are brought in every hour of the day and night. Vets also keep on eye on the 15-20 pets recuperating in the hospital at any given time. Treatment will set you back a minimum of $160 per visit; a standard $80 exam fee and an $80 emergency fee is charged. The total cost of treatment varies widely depending on the patient’s problem, but it is not uncommon for a visit to cost several hundred dollars.

But those are fees that most owners are only too glad to pay. When it comes to their pets, Annapolitans are notoriously infatuated. Rusty Owens, the clinic’s practice administrator, says that “Lots of owners aggressively pursue every course of treatment for their pets.”

The 12,500-square-foot facility houses state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment that is unavailable in conventional veterinary offices. The cost of the clinic’s newly installed digital radiography system, for example, was more than $100,000. The emergency clinic is part of a larger parent company, the Chesapeake Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC), operating in the same building. The CVRC consists of a group of board-certified veterinary specialists practicing in the fields of cardiology, dermatology, dentistry, internal medicine and ophthalmology, as well as in general and orthopedic surgery.

Local vets refer animals needing more sophisticated operations and testing to the CVRC doctors, who are also on-call for the emergency clinic when life-threatening situations arise. Complicated bone breaks and births, delicate eye surgeries, and difficult tumor operations are performed in the Bestgate facility’s surgical suites. “We’ve removed masses that weigh as much as one-quarter of an animal’s total body weight, and they’ve survived,” Owens notes.

In less dramatic cases, however, the cause of a pet’s discomfort is not immediately apparent. As Owens puts it, “Dogs and cats handle pain a lot better than we do, so they usually don’t give us too many clues as to what’s wrong.” They can, however, develop strong allergic reactions to particulates in food, air, water and plants. If you’ve ever wondered why more and more dogs can be seen sporting big, conical “Elizabethan” collars, they may well have been diagnosed with an allergic reaction that’s affected their fur or skin. (The collar prevents the dogs from biting or further irritating the area.)

Dogs not infrequently ingest chocolate, which can poison them. (Semi-sweet and dark cooking chocolate is more toxic than milk chocolate.) If your pet eats any kind of chocolate, treatment should be sought as soon as possible so an emetic can be administered. Cat owners may notice that their toms strain but fail to produce any urine, a clue that the animals have developed a lower urinary tract infection. A quick visit to the emergency clinic for blood, urine or fecal tests will likely reveal the specific nature of your pet’s illness. Interestingly, vets may prescribe the same antibiotics, cough suppressants and high blood pressure medications that you take—albeit in very different doses. Even Viagra is given to dogs—but strictly as a heart med!

Unfortunately, the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic has seen its share of doggy dope fiends. Not a few worried owners have brought their dogs in because their pets seem depressed, lethargic or unresponsive. When blood work reveals the tell-tale chemical profile of marijuana, the owners sheepishly ‘fess up. In all his years at the clinic, Rusty Owens can only recall one individual who admitted at the outset that his dog had wolfed down a few joints.

Grim examples of animal abuse turn up at the clinic, too. One pit bull owner came in with his dog, who had a pipe jammed down its throat. (The owner was later arrested.) Animal rescue workers often bring in emaciated cats and dogs, that sometimes have to be euthanized. Even well-meaning animal lovers who adopt strays sometimes neglect to vaccinate or give rabies boosters to their pets. As a result, the clinic sees as many as 10 rabid cats and dogs brought in each year.

But on most days, the clinic’s a happy place filled with the meows of feisty, recovering cats and the cacophony of barking dogs. (“You always know when a beagle’s nearby,” Owens remarks. “They howl like nobody’s business.”) There are plenty of more exotic patients, too, including ferrets and rabbits. CVRC specialists have also treated emus and horses on occasion. And a new furry friend is residing in more and more homes in Annapolis: the sugar glider. These diminutive gliding possums, which hail from New Guinea and Australia, weigh in at just one-quarter pound and are only 7 inches long. They are social animals who live from 5 to 10 years. Sugar gliders have wormed their way into the hearts of pet owners and vet professionals alike. “They’re like cute flying chipmunks from Down Under,” Owen says. But he adds a caveat: “They require special care, so do a little research before you get one.”

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