While some veterinary emergencies are easily recognized, other conditions requiring urgent veterinary care are often less obvious and harder to spot. Below, our Upland vets share some examples of situations that may require emergency vet care.
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.
The Most Common Pet Emergencies
A pet emergency can take countless forms from accidents to ingestions, 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 becomes 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 - Dogs and cats exhibit pain very differently so it can be challenging to know if your pet is in pain. If your dog is whimpering, has their ears dropped back and tail tucked under, is licking excessively, limping or pacing contact your vet right away. Cats on the other hand have a natural instinct to hide when in pain. This is a defense mechanism to protect themselves against predators. If your cat is hiding and reluctant to come out, sleeping more than usual, refusing to eat, licking excessively, meowing out of character, or showing behaviors that are unusual for your feline friend, contact your vet right away.
Be Prepared For a Veterinary Emergency
What You Should Know in Advance
Being prepared for a pet emergency can help you to provide your animal with the best possible care quickly. Our Upland vets suggest keeping the following at 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 circumstances by putting money aside specifically for emergencies, or by signing up for a pet insurance plan. Putting off veterinary care in order to avoid emergency fees could put your pet's life at risk.
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.