Knowing when to drop everything to rush your four-legged family member to the veterinarian may not always be obvious, but guessing wrong can be fatal. Our Groves Veterinary Clinic team wants you to recognize eight serious emergencies, to help you know when your pet’s injury or illness requires immediate medical attention.
#1: Your pet has eaten a toxic food or chemical
If your pet has eaten holiday chocolates, anything containing xylitol (e.g., sugarless gum), grapes, raisins, or human prescription or over-the-counter medications, head to the veterinary hospital immediately. The sooner treatment is started, the better the outcome. The same warning applies if your pet has eaten antifreeze, or household fertilizers or cleaning materials. Don’t try to make your pet vomit, because that is not always the appropriate treatment, plus hydrogen peroxide and other over-the-counter emetics are often ineffective—or worse, can cause more damage.
#2: Your pet has bloat
Your pet’s abdomen looks like there’s a basketball inside. They’re retching without bringing anything up, and they’re breathing rapidly. Bloat is a critical emergency that can lead to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), an extremely serious condition that requires emergency surgery to prevent shock and death. If you notice bloating in your pet, get them to the veterinary emergency hospital immediately.
#3: Your pet is having trouble breathing
If your cat is open-mouth breathing, or your dog is stretching out its neck to breathe, they need immediate veterinary care. Pets struggling to breathe often make loud raspy or honking noises, and their normally pink gums will appear white, gray, or blue-gray. Breathing difficulties have varied causes, but in all cases your animal may die from oxygen deprivation if they do not get immediate treatment.
#4: Your pet has suffered a traumatic injury
Most pet owners know to head to the veterinary hospital if their pet is bleeding or has an obviously broken bone. However, any pet who has experienced trauma, from an attack by another animal, to being hit by a moving vehicle, should be taken to their veterinarian without delay. Your pet may not appear to be badly injured, but small bite wounds can hide enormous damage under the skin, and a traumatic accident can cause serious internal bleeding. Similarly, a pet with a ruptured spleen or bladder, for example, may show no signs until they start to deteriorate later, yet early diagnosis and veterinary treatment will greatly improve prognosis.
#5: Your pet is having a severe allergic reaction
If an insect stings or bites your pet, and they develop a large swelling around the sting, take them to the veterinary hospital immediately. Pets can be allergic to wasps and bees, and an untreated sting can lead to respiratory distress and anaphylaxis.
#6: Your pet is paralyzed or has hind-leg paresis
A paralyzed pet cannot move one or more limbs at all, while a pet with hind-leg paresis has only limb weakness, but both conditions constitute an emergency. Certain long-bodied breeds, such as dachshunds, beagles, and basset hounds, are particularly prone to paresis or paralysis resulting from intervertebral disc disease. To prevent paresis from becoming paralysis, or paralysis from becoming permanent, immediate veterinary treatment is essential.
#7: Pain in your pet
Pets can show pain in multiple ways. They may be hunched up, whimpering, hiding under the sofa, or shaking uncontrollably. They may not want to eat, interact with you, or go outside. Do not minimize or ignore signs of significant pain, because they can indicate an ongoing, serious medical condition. Never give your pet an aspirin, because it can cause toxicity in cats, and will not alleviate your dog’s discomfort. Instead, get them to the veterinary hospital quickly for a thorough evaluation and appropriate analgesia.
#8: Your pet is straining to urinate
Urinary obstructions are painful, and can quickly lead to kidney damage, a ruptured bladder, and death. If your cat is going to the litter box repeatedly or spending a lot of time there, but is not able to urinate, or is yowling while in the box, take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Dogs can also suffer with urinary obstructions, and their abnormal urination patterns should be considered a veterinary emergency, as well.
If your furry family member’s behavior has you worried, or if you’re not entirely clear if there is a problem, call our Groves Veterinary Clinic office. We will help you determine if your pet needs to come into our hospital right away for emergency care.