In times like these, it’s important to know what constitutes as an “emergency.” What can wait until tomorrow and what needs to be seen right away? These are questions we get as veterinarians from our clients all the time. Being educated around veterinary emergencies and what constitutes as such is a priority. Because of this, we have compiled some of the most common veterinary emergencies that need an appointment with your veterinary care team right away.

  1. Allergic reactions or anaphylaxis: this type of veterinary emergency can be alarming. It may present with the appearance of facial swelling, profuse vomiting and diarrhea, hives, difficulty breathing, or collapse.
  2. Bleeding: any uncontrolled bleeding that occurs from your pet should be considered an emergency. This is especially alarming if it’s coming from the ears, nose, mouth, rectum, or toenails and should warrant an emergency appointment with your veterinarian.
  3. Collapse: any type of spontaneous loss of consciousness is a veterinary emergency. This can be described as your pet falling and being unable to rise. The causes of this can vary but if your pet does experience any form of collapse, seek immediate treatment by your veterinary care team.
  4. Difficulty breathing: as you likely know, difficulty breathing is an extreme emergency. We constitute difficulty breathing in coordination with open mouth breathing. This can look like the dog or cat gasping for air, high-pitched respiratory noises, increased respiratory rate, or excessive panting. All of these will need to be addressed by your veterinary care team immediately.
  5. Heatstroke: as temperatures are warming, we usually see an increase in heatstroke cases. Since dogs and cats only have a few sweat glands located in their paw pads, overheating can be an extreme emergency as it’s difficult for them to cool themselves down. Signs of heatstroke may be excessive panting, lethargy, collapse, or distress.
  6. Poisoning: if your pet ingests any foreign substance or has eaten something you know is toxic to them (grapes/raisins, onions, chocolate, peace lilies, etc.) it is important for you to seek advice from your veterinary care team or the Pet Poison Control Helpline right away. There are many things that your pet can encounter from ordinary household plants and foods to pesticides and cleaning products which can be incredibly dangerous if they get ahold of it. For a full list or a specific question about an incident, consult your veterinary care team right away.
  7. Straining to urinate: this can be a veterinary emergency especially if you notice your pet is struggling (straining) to urinate or are not urinating at all. Male pets are more prone to life-threatening blockages in their urinary tract and this is certainly cause for a trip to your veterinarian’s office.
  8. Trauma: The types of trauma seen in pets can vary greatly based on the incident. A traumatic injury can occur from traffic accidents, falls, fights with other pets or wildlife, gunshot wounds, and more. Some of the time, injuries sustained from traumatic incidents can do internal damage. This makes it difficult to assess the pet by visual inspection. Because of this, it is considered a veterinary emergency and we highly recommend seeking care quickly from your veterinary care team as soon as possible.
  9. Vomiting and Diarrhea: both vomiting and diarrhea can be signs of a serious illness. If your pet develops additional serious symptoms alongside vomiting and diarrhea, such as lethargy, collapsing, or if blood presents in the stool, it’s important to call your veterinarian immediately.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of veterinary emergencies and if you ever have questions or concerns regarding your pet’s health or current health status, please call your veterinarian right away. We always reserve a few appointment spots for same-day, urgent cases, however; it’s important to remember an emergency hospital, like Blue Pearl or Mission Veterinary Emergency & Specialty, is best equipped to handle a true emergency case. It is a good idea to have both our phone number and your preferred emergency veterinary hospital’s phone number programmed in your phone. The Pet Desk App allows you to easily carry your pet’s vaccination history and medication list with you.

The best way to avoid an emergency is prevention. Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations and follow the recommendations of your veterinarian. Annual wellness exams and bloodwork, even on seemingly healthy pets, can alert us to a health concern before it becomes life-threatening. You can request an appointment day or night online or on our Pet Desk App. We look forward to seeing you and your pet for their next visit.