Recognizing Pet Emergencies
A situation requiring emergency veterinary care could occur at any time - day or night - and it's important to know the signs and be prepared.
But it can be challenging for even the most attentive pet parents to know when their dog, cat, or other pet is in need of emergency care. That's why knowing some of the signs and symptoms that indicate an emergency health issue is happening to your pet is helpful. If you still aren't sure, contact your vet or emergency vet clinic for advice.
Some Conditions That Require Emergency Veterinary Care
A pet emergency can take countless forms from accidents to ingestions, and injuries to the sudden onset of disease. Below are just a few examples of conditions that require emergency veterinary care:
Breathing Difficulties or Choking - Any time your dog or cat is struggling to breathe it's time to head to the vet. Breathing difficulties can be due to asthma, inhaled toxins, choking, or other life-threatening conditions. If your pet is struggling to breathe normally it is always best to err on the side of caution and have your animal seen by a vet as quickly as possible.
Severe Bleeding - Oftentimes pet parents believe that they will be able to stop bleeding and treat their pet's wounds without the help of a veterinary professional. But when it comes to animals, fur can be hiding more complex health problems. Other concerns beyond stopping the flow of blood and closing the wound are preventing infection and checking for signs of internal bleeding. A trip to the emergency vet now could prevent further health complications and save you money down the line.
Severe Diarrhea & Vomiting - Both diarrhea and vomiting can lead to a serious case of dehydration which can be life-threatening, so it's important to get to the cause of the issue as quickly as possible. Ingested poisons are a common reason for severe diarrhea and vomiting so be sure to take note of what your pet has eaten and been doing right before the issue began. This can help your vet to know what to look for, and lead to a quicker diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Constipation - While constipation may seem like a minor issue if your dog or cat is straining but unable to pass a stool it could be a sign of an intestinal blockage which is a very serious veterinary emergency. Always take signs of constipation seriously and contact your vet right away.
Eye Injuries - Injuries to the eye are common in pets and should always be examined by a veterinarian. Taking action quickly could prevent severe complications from arising and may save your pet's sight.
Blood in Vomit, Stool, or Secretions - The unexplained appearance of blood should always be taken seriously. It is possible that your dog or cat is suffering from an undiagnosed illness or has been injured while out of your sight. Contact your vet right away if you notice blood where there should be none.
Ingestions - While puppies are notorious for eating things they shouldn't, adult dogs and even cats will sometimes swallow non-food items or plants and substances that are toxic. If you know that your pet has swallowed something they shouldn't have, contact your vet right away! Immediate veterinary care could save you money and save your pet's life. Your vet may be able to take quick action to remove the item before it begins working its way down the intestinal tract or provide an antidote to prevent serious complications resulting from poisoning.
Seizures - There are different types of seizures in pets, and some are more alarming and serious than others. If your pet has a seizure contact your vet right away. If your pet has recurring seizures, or a seizure that lasts more than a minute or two it's time to head to the emergency vet!
Lameness, Inability to Walk, or Staggering - If you know that your pet has a broken bone it is essential to head to the vet so that the bone can be reset properly and healing can begin. If your pet is limping, unable to walk at all, or staggering, a quick call to your vet or nearest emergency animal hospital to discuss your pet's symptoms can help you to decide whether emergency care is required. Our team and the staff at emergency clinics are trained to spot the signs of veterinary emergencies and can help you to decide on the urgency of your pet's condition.
Heatstroke - When warm weather sets in heatstroke become a very serious concern. Heatstroke can quickly become life-threatening for dogs and cats. If your pet is showing signs of heatstroke contact a vet right away for further instructions and to let them know you are on the way with your pet. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness, loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement, and collapse.
Obvious Signs of Pain - Because dogs and cats express the pain in very different ways, determining whether or not your pet is in pain can be difficult. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog is whimpering, has its ears back and tail tucked under, is licking excessively, limping, or pacing. When cats are in pain, they have a natural instinct to hide. This is a defense mechanism used to keep predators at bay. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat is hiding and refusing to come out, sleeping more than usual, refusing to eat, licking excessively, meowing out of character, or displaying unusual behaviors for your feline friend.
Be Prepared For a Veterinary Emergency
What You Should Know in Advance
Being prepared for a pet emergency can help you provide the best care for your animal as soon as possible. Our Smyrna veterinarians recommend keeping the following items on hand in case of an emergency:
- The phone number for your vet's office
- The phone number for the closest Emergency Vet Clinic
- The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
- How to muzzle your dog when he's in pain so he doesn't bite others
- Directions to the Emergency Vet Clinic
- Knowledge of basic pet CPR
- Knowledge of how to stop bleeding
Due to the amount of diagnostic testing, monitoring, and treatment required, emergency veterinary care can be expensive. It is a pet owner's responsibility to ensure that they can financially care for your pet in a time of crisis.
Prepare for unforeseeable events by setting aside money for emergencies or enrolling in a pet insurance plan. Putting off veterinary care to avoid emergency fees could endanger your pet's life.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets, or search and rescue advice for pets.