How to Recognize a Pet Emergency

If you have a pet, you've probably had an experience during "off hours" that made you wonder if your dog or cat needed immediate medical attention. It's not always obvious, though, if an issue needs to be dealt with immediately or if it can wait until the morning. 

Some emergencies are obvious, such as if your dog or cat has stopped breathing or is bleeding profusely. In those cases you’ll of course go to the emergency vet. But what about other concerns? A slip and fall that leads to a slight limp, or the sudden discovery of a rash... are those the kind of emergencies that require a rush to the hospital?

As the American Veterinary Hospital Association reminds us, you know your dog or cat best:

“If you notice your pet behaving in a way that’s unusual for her, or if something just doesn’t seem right, you may have picked up on a subtle sign of a real problem. To find out, you can call your veterinary hospital, or an emergency animal hospital near you. By asking a few questions over the phone, an emergency veterinarian should be able to tell you whether you should bring your pet in right away, or whether she can wait for an examination during your hospital’s normal office hours. Even if you find out nothing’s wrong, you’ll be glad to have your mind at ease.”

Since emergency veterinary hospitals always have a 24-hour vet on call, you don’t need to be concerned about waking anyone up. They’re there to treat emergencies.


Know the Signs of a Pet Medical Emergency

It isn't always clear whether an issue needs immediate emergency attention or not (though we encourage you to err on the side of caution and make the trip to the emergency vet if you're really unsure). To help you make that decision, we have You know your cat best - especially if you suspect an emergency situationa list of some symptoms that can be life-threatening without immediate attention:

  • Inability to urinate or defecate or pain while doing/attempting.
  • Hiding (this is especially serious in cats).
  • Heat stress/heat stroke.
  • Unconsciousness/coma.
  • Seizure(s), tremors, or fainting.
  • Loss of balance. 
  • Changes in respiration/difficulty breathing, excessive panting, gagging, or constant coughing.
  • Elevated heart and/or respiratory rate.
  • Penetrating wounds to the chest. 
  • Ingestion of known poisons (2 , 3).
  • Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Uncontrolled bleeding.
  • A fever over 104 and profound lethargy.
  • A distended or bloated abdomen.
  • Bulging eyes and sudden blindness, or any major trauma to the eyes.
  • Inability to walk, move, or dragging the back legs.
  • Burns or injuries in which a bone is exposed. (Source, Source, Source)


How to Safely Transport Your Injured Pet

If your pet is injured or in extreme pain, they may act aggressively. The first step is to protect yourself and then support your pet’s neck and back in case they’ve suffered a spinal injury.

The ASPCA shares the following approach to transporting hurt animals:

“For dogs: Approach your dog slowly and calmly; kneel down and say his name. If the dog shows aggression, call for help. If he’s passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher and gently lift him onto it. Take care to support his neck and back in case he’s suffered any spinal injuries.

For cats: Gently place a blanket or towel over the cat’s head to prevent biting; then slowly lift the cat and place her in an open-topped carrier or box. Take care to support the cat’s head and avoid twisting her neck in case she’s suffered a spinal injury.

Once you feel confident and safe transporting your pet, immediately bring him to an emergency care facility. Ask a friend or family member to call the clinic so the staff knows to expect you and your pet.”



You can try to prevent pet emergencies by pet-proofing your home

How You Can Plan Ahead

While we never really plan for an emergency, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for one. The first one is to know the name, location, and phone number of your closest 24-hour veterinarian hospital

Make sure you keep this contact information in an easily accessible location - in your phone contacts, on your refrigerator, or both - then it will be handy should you need it.

You can also prepare a pet first aid kit and even take classes on pet CPR.

And remember, we're here 24/7 for any of your emergencies or questions about possible emergencies. Don't hesitate to contact us if you're ever in doubt about your pet's health!


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