This caller's cat had been missing for several days and returned on Saturday evening, apparently distressed and panting with her mouth open. She had been to the local private vet in the past, but her owners had no idea that they would be closed over the weekend and that the out of hours cover would cost £100 just for the consultation fee.
They decided to wait until Monday when their normal vet would be available, but by mid-afternoon on Sunday the cat was so visibly distressed that they called the branch helpline in desperation.
I agreed that we would cover the consultation fee so she could have first aid today and they would bring the cat to our Tuesday clinic to register her (with a silent mental reservation on my part that she might not live until then).
Even responsible owners who get their pets vaccinated and chipped and provide routine vet care don't always recognise just how expensive it may be if an emergency happens at an inconvenient time or if a condition doesn't respond to initial treatment and requires several visits to the surgery.
Considering that the recent PDSA survey showed that a third of pet owners aged between 18 and 24 would give their pets up if the cost became too great there's a time bomb of unwanted animals in the making.