The Tri-Cities now has a walk-in veterinary clinic to handle daytime pet emergencies.
Horse Heaven Hills Pet Urgent Care opened this month in the Southridge area of Kennewick.
“We’re trying to fill a gap in the community,” said owner and veterinarian Dr. Sheila Erickson, who explained that previously there was no place in the Tri-Cities offering dedicated daytime emergency care for animals.
Pet owners either had to wait for Mid- Columbia Pet Emergency Service in Pasco to open at 5:30 p.m. or see if they could get into a regular vet clinic during the week, Erickson said.
With the new urgent care clinic — called H3 for short — pet owners can get their cats, dogs and exotic pets immediate care.
The 3,500-square-foot, full-service clinic, which is in the building formerly occupied by The Mint Salon & Skin Care at 4309 W. 27th Place, offers surgical and intensive care services, a full pharmacy and in-house diagnostic services.
These include digital X-rays, ultrasound and laboratory tests such as serum chemistry, hematology, serology, urinalysis and parasite testing. It also offers antivenin for rattlesnake bites.
“There are very few things we can’t handle,” Erickson said.
Erickson said she invested heavily in her X-ray, ultrasound and lab equipment.
“They’re the hallmarks of our business, enabling the ability to do in-house tests quickly. Our patients can’t talk to us, so it’s very important,” she said.
She said all the clinic’s software is cloud-based and work will be done on Surface Pro tablets, enabling her team to access patient information anywhere in the clinic.
Erickson also added “fear-free” exam rooms to reduce the anxiety experienced by both animals and their owners.
“It’s a big push in the industry right now,” she said. “Animals are so scared when they come here, so we are trying to do whatever we can to make them less scared,” which is why two of the three exam rooms look more like a living room than a doctor’s office.
A flat screen equipped with Netflix is on one wall, while others feature soothing modern art accents with paints in cool, calming colors. A hardwood-patterned tile floor, homelike décor and sofa with pillows work to create a comfy space for pets and their owners.
Exams are conducted on large ottomans in each of these rooms to help pets feel more at ease.
“At urgent care, we know you have to wait, so we do our best to accommodate,” Erickson said. “Diagnostics take time … we want to make you as comfortable as possible … we want for you what we ourselves would expect.”
The clinic has a more traditional exam room set aside for special cases, but Erickson said it will use the “fear-free” rooms for as many exams as possible.
H3 also has a comfort room, where Dr. Erickson and her staff can consult with owners whose pets are hospitalized and where they can perform euthanasia. The room features a small fireplace and TV, and one of the couches folds out for owners waiting or staying overnight with hospitalized pets.
Rounding out the clinic’s facilities, H3 also has an isolation room for pets with contagious diseases, dedicated imaging room, operatory for surgeries, lab, sterilization and laundry room, staff lounge and open concept hospital ward with a divided area for cats and dogs.
“We’re fortunate to have a staff that’s crazy experienced,” she said.
She said the area’s rapid growth has created a shortage of veterinary professionals to serve the community’s needs.
Erickson opened with one associate veterinarian, three licensed veterinary technicians, three assistants and the help of her husband and children.
She said she also received a lot of support from colleagues in the field.
“It was now or never,” she said. “It’s a great location, absolutely perfect. It’s bigger than what we wanted but it will allow us the room to grow.”
Erickson worked for the past eight years as a veterinarian at Mid-Columbia Pet Emergency Service, where she discovered her passion for emergency work, especially in critical care and cardiology.
“Veterinary medicine has always mimicked human medicine; urgent care is the next step,” said Erickson, who added that even her lender, Bank of America — one of several major lenders that provide loan services to those investing in the medical field — was unsure how to advise, given the newness of the animal urgent care concept.
Originally from Spokane, Erickson moved to the Columbia Basin to begin practicing in 2003 after graduating from Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition to emergency care, she has experience working in equine and mixed animal practices and small animal exclusive practices.
Erickson has two pets of her own, a cat named Phoebe and a horse named Simon. She enjoys spending time traveling, hiking, baking, gardening, and riding and showing horses with her husband and four children.
Erickson and her team have been in contact with officials at Tri-Tech Skills Center’s pre-veterinary program and plan to offer job shadow and internship opportunities for students, as well as provide continuing education workshops and events on site for those already in the field, especially related to H3’s intensive care unit capabilities.
The clinic is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday; from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
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