Pet 911: How to Recognize a Veterinary Emergency


When it’s in the middle of the night, it may be tough to know how to respond to the third time the dog has vomited or sudden lameness in the cat’s hind leg. In a lot of cases, pet parents will do one of two things, jump online to consult Dr. Google or opt to wait it out until morning.

Unfortunately, when it comes to a veterinary emergency, sometimes what we think is no big deal turns out to be a big deal, and those few hours of delayed treatment could have resulted in a better prognosis.

To help you stay informed on emergency situations in pets and how to respond, the team at Embrace Veterinary Care has you covered.

Recognizing a Veterinary Emergency

Although it may seem like a no-brainer, the cues of a serious health problem can often appear subtle, particularly if there are no visible signs of distress.

Consider all of these scenarios an emergency, regardless of whether or not your pet seems okay:

  • Bitten or wounded by another animal (domestic or wild)
  • Struck by a car
  • Electrical shock
  • Fall from a height
  • Ingestion of a poisonous substance (antifreeze, rat poison, medications, etc.)
  • Hypothermia or heatstroke
  • Known trauma, including broken bones, wounds, or injury to the eye
  • Has been in active labor for more than a few hours

There are also some physical symptoms that should not be ignored, such as:

  • Bleeding from any orifice
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop after a few minutes
  • Repeated vomiting with or without diarrhea
  • Swollen, hard abdomen
  • Straining to urinate or defecate
  • Sudden lameness or limping
  • Difficulty breathing, choking, or gagging
  • Seizure
  • Disorientation

While some situations may seem normal on occasion, like vomiting, a call to our office can help you determine what is needed, encourage a better outcome, and give you peace of mind.

The Tried-and-True Motto: Be Prepared

One of the best and simplest ways to avoid a late night conundrum when it comes to pet health is to keep the after-hours contact information for your emergency veterinarian in your cell phone, as well as in your pet’s records.

You may also want to have a print-out of local emergency clinics in your area, should you need to find the closest after hours hospital.

This is particularly true when you are traveling with your pet and do not know the destination city that well. Having a list of nearby emergency contacts, along with your pet’s medical records and medications within quick reach will save you time and panic.

We also want to stress that as your pet’s greatest ally, you know when your loved one seems the slightest bit off or unwell. We encourage you to pay attention to any changes and consider getting a second opinion, which can prevent the progression of any underlying problems.

For the truly empowered pet parent, creating a pet first aid kit.

To learn more about pet emergencies, contact us – we welcome your questions.

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