What to expect when your pet has been hospitalised

James Cook University Veterinary Teaching Hospital is a fully equipped primary care and referral facility prepared to handle any illness or emergency your pet may face. Our services include first opinion practice, surgery, medicine, anaesthesia and emergency and critical care. With a dedicated team in each department, we aim to deliver gold standard medicine to your pet through all stages of health and illness.

When a loved one becomes ill or injured, we understand how stressful this can be. Our goal is to make your pet as comfortable as possible under the care & supervision of our experienced staff. We hope the following information will help you understand the process & help guide your expectations throughout your pets stay.


Your family member is being admitted to our hospital for 24 hour medical and nursing care. Our doctors will present an estimate for the proposed treatment plan for your pet at the time of consultation. This paperwork also conveys consent for treatment and must be signed before we commence any treatment on your pet. Upon admission, 50% of the high end of your estimate is required. We do ask that you keep your account up to date during the hospital stay. It is also your responsibility to inform the doctor of constraints that you may have regarding possible charges and payments prior to incurring those obligations.

Please note that it is our hospital policy to ensure you are kept up to date & informed with where your bill is at on a daily basis. Please feel free at any time to ask a JCU staff member for an update of your estimate or open invoice.

If your pet is currently taking medications, please leave them with us or return with them as soon as possible. Your pet’s medication must be in the original vial or packaging from the pharmacy or your veterinarian. Please inform our staff when the last dose of this medication was given to your pet, and when their next dose is due. There is a charge for dispensing medication from our stock

Please let us know if your pet has any special dietary needs. We can provide some special diets, but you are welcome to bring your pet’s diet as long as it is approved by your family veterinarian and deemed an appropriate diet during their current stage of illness. All food must be cooked, a dry formula or in cans.

Pets do find comfort in familiar smells; therefore, you may leave a blanket, towel, article of clothing or a toy with your pet. This can help reduce stress and help them to adjust to the hospital environment. Please note however, that we will not be held responsible for any lost items: some items can get soiled and will be washed with the general laundry. Please mark any items left with a permanent marker. Keep your kennels and any leashes with you. Remember to pick up your pet’s belongings at the time of discharge from hospital.


Visiting hours are between 2pm & 5pm and 7pm & 9pm including weekends. One of our nurses will bring your pet to the visiting room to spend time with you and other family members. If you need to visit outside of these hours, please inform the attending doctor to see if this can be arranged. We will make every attempt to be flexible, but in some instances due to the nature of emergencies and the number of patients hospitalized, we will need to enforce the

visiting hours so we can continue to provide high-quality care to our hospitalised patients. Because we are a 24-hour emergency facility, we may be attending to a critical patient or performing a surgery at any time of day or night. Therefore, we ask that you please call before coming to the hospital to ensure it’s an appropriate time for visiting your loved one. This helps us to minimise any inconvenience by ensuring a staff member is free to facilitate your visit. During visitation, we like to have a nurse available to spend a couple of minutes with you to discuss any changes in your pet’s condition, any results that have been received, and /or any changes in therapy.

No family members are permitted in the ICU unless authorized by the doctor and escorted by a staff member. Visitation in the ICU will only be allowed with patients in critical condition which are not able to go into the visiting room.

Please limit visits to 30 minutes unless the patient cannot leave the ICU in which case the visitation will be limited to 15 minutes or less. This is to help us avoid disruption to our more critical patients and to ensure that our staff are available to perform treatments in a timely and efficient manner.

Phone Calls 

You will receive a daily update from the doctor caring for your pet. Please limit your phone calls to twice daily unless the veterinarian on duty requests that you call more frequently.

Please do not call for updates between 7 & 10am or between 7 & 10pm, as this is the time when we have shift changes, our doctors are in rounds, and our nursing staff are completing patient treatments. Calls at any other time, day or night are permitted.

It is our policy that our doctors ensure that each patient in hospital receives a complete examination prior to making or returning phone calls at that start of each shift. Therefore, on some days, it may be later in the shift when your pet’s doctor is available to communicate with you. In these instances, our nurses will happily give you a brief update on your pet. Likewise, if the attending doctor is unavailable because they are attending to more critical patients, the nurse will be glad to relay any questions about your family member to the veterinarian or take a message so that they can call you back at their earliest convenience. Please note that if our doctors are concerned about the status of your pet at any time – day or night, we will ring you immediately.

We strive to ensure you are routinely updated on your pet’s status and feel comfortable with the care and attention they are receiving whilst in our care.

When it is time for your pet to go home

When your pet is ready to go home, the doctor will call you and provide you with a medical update & any pertinent information regarding the ongoing care of your pet. They will then organize a discharge appointment with you. During the discharge appointment, one of our nurses will go through the discharge instructions with you, including any medications and follow-up care needed. They will answer all of your questions at that time, but you are welcome to call the hospital at any time if you have additional questions. We will also send a copy of your pet’s discharge report and instructions to your primary care veterinarian to aid them in the continuing care of your pet.

We understand that having an unwell family member can be very stressful for everyone involved. Our aim is to provide the highest level of care for your pet at all stages of their stay whilst working closely with your family and your primary care veterinarian to ensure the very best outcome.