Some emergencies are obvious, such as if your dog or cat has stopped breathing or is bleeding profusely. In those cases, of course, you’ll call 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
There are pet emergencies, and then there are issues that can wait until morning. If you have any questions though, don’t hesitate to contact your family veterinarian for more insight.
Below is a list of just some of the symptoms that can be life-threatening without immediate attention:
- Your pet can’t urinate at all. He’ll probably also be in obvious discomfort and may even start to panic. This [could mean] there’s a complete blockage somewhere in the urinary tract and your dog or cat must be seen right away. The inability to pass waste is a life threatening emergency.
- Seizure. Especially if your pet doesn’t come out of it right away.
- Loss of balance. If your dog or cat can’t right herself or is unable to maintain her balance and is falling over.
- Changes in respiration. If your pet is gagging, if his mouth or tongue is turning blue, if he collapses and can’t get up, this means he’s not getting enough oxygen.
- Penetrating wounds to the chest. Deep lacerations or punctures to the chest cavity.
- Ingestion of known poisons.
- Uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea.
- Uncontrolled bleeding.
- A fever over 104 and profound lethargy.
- Bulging eyes and sudden blindness, or any major trauma to the eyes.
- Burns or injuries in which a bone is exposed.
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.”
How Do Pet Emergencies Happen?
By their very nature, emergencies occur due to a range of things and some of those are more controllable than others.
For example, chocolate is a well-known poison for dogs. Therefore, you want to keep it well out of reach of your pooch. On the other hand, you can’t always control an animal with a tendency to climb over, around, or under fences. Such behavior puts your pet at risk for fights, falls, or being hit by a car.
While you can’t plan for every pet emergency, you can pet-proof your home to minimize the dangers.
How You Can Plan Ahead
If you think about it, there are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself for an emergency. The first one is to know the name, location, and phone number of your closest 24-hour veterinarian hospital.
When 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.
Hopefully, this gives you food for thought when it comes to recognizing a true pet emergency and you’ll be prepared should you ever need it. Don't hesitate to contact your family vet if you're ever in doubt about your pet's health!