Thursday, 25 July 2019 21:12

Reasons to Seek Emergency Veterinary Care

Written by  Dr. Mindy Cohan
Rate this item
(3 votes)

When it comes to making medical decisions regarding dogs and cats, it is always best to be safe rather than sorry. Although an emergency veterinary hospital examination alone can be costly, it is well worth the peace of mind it can provide and it may in fact save your pet’s life. The following situations warrant immediate medical attention.

Changes in breathing

·         rapid or shallow
cats with open mouth breathing 

Check your pet’s gums and look for bluish gray coloration which can indicate poor oxygenation or pale/white gums suggestive of an underlying bleeding problem. 

Bite Wounds, Cuts and Lacerations

Because of the risk of infection, all wounds should be handled immediately by veterinary staff. Some first aid tips include flushing the site with saline or clean water. Apply firm pressure to stop bleeding. Wrap wounds with bandage material, clean socks or towels. Keep pressure on the bleeding site for a minimum of 3 minutes. Removing gauze or other bandage material too quickly will prevent clot formation. 

Limping, Lameness, Fractured Bones

Seek immediate medical attention if your pet has suffered trauma or is suddenly not bearing weight on a leg for unknown reasons. It is important to handle these pets carefully as they are in pain and can inadvertently bite out of fear.

A fractured leg might appear bent at an odd angle, swollen or have a protruding bone. Animals with known or suspected fractures should be transported on boards or supported  with blankets. 

Bleeding (Internal)

·         coughing up blood
bleeding from nose, mouth, rectum
blood in urine or eyes
internal bleeding will often result in pale gums and collapse.

Bites from Insects or Snakes

Insect bites often result in allergic reactions which manifest with:
puffy skin around eyes
swollen ears/face
difficulty breathing (less common)


Since burns are extremely painful, before handling the pet, apply a muzzle. Immediately flush the site with cool water for several minutes. Apply a cold compress to the area before transporting to a veterinarian. Never apply ice directly to the skin!

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV/Bloat)

This life threatening condition often affects dogs that have deep chests. The stomach becomes dilated and rotates out of its normal position, compromising the blood supply to the spleen and stomach, resulting in shock. Dogs with GDV typically have a distended abdomen and retch without producing anything. As their status worsens, they often collapse and need to be carried into the veterinary office. If you suspect GDV, do not delay transport to a veterinary office!


Pets cannot signal choking with the universal sign of a paw lifted to the throat. They might exhibit difficulty breathing, coughing, hacking, pawing at the mouth or a blue-tinged tongue. If your pet can still breathe, try to keep it calm and rush it to a veterinarian. If your pet cannot breathe, examine its mouth for a foreign object. Carefully use your fingers or tweezers to clear the airway. Be careful to not push the object further down the throat!

If you are unable to remove the blockage and your pet is not breathing, place both hands on each side of its rib cage and quickly squeeze your hands together. If your pet has collapsed and is laying on its side, apply pressure to the rib cage with the palm of your hand quickly 3-4 times (as if doing CPR). The application of pressure to your pet’s rib cage will hopefully force air out of the lungs and expel the object from the airway.

Eye Injuries/Problems

Eye issues can turn bad very quickly. It is best to have eye problems checked in a timely manner. Seek veterinary care if you notice:

·         squinting
 pupils of different size
discharge that is greenish-yellow
bulging of the eyes or swelling of the eyes


If your pet has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder and it has an episode that lasts for only 1-2 minutes, it does not warrant an emergency visit. However, status epilepticus is characterized by seizures lasting more than 5 minutes and is considered a life threatening condition.

Anytime your pet has a seizure episode, ensure it is safe by keeping it away from stairs or inflicting harm to itself. If your pet is having multiple episodes within an hour, or is having seizures that are different than the typical pattern, seek veterinary care.


If your dog or cat is not able to walk or use its back legs, take it immediately to a veterinarian. Cats which suddenly cannot use their hindlegs are commonly affected by a life threatening blood clot that affects their aorta and blocks the blood supply to the rear legs. For dogs, the sudden inability to walk is often due to the compression of the spinal cord from a prolapsed intervertebral disc. This condition is not only painful, but can have lasting damage to the spinal cord and requires immediate intervention.

Poison/Toxic Substance

Potential signs of exposure:

·         vomiting
excessive salivation

If you know what your pet ingested, bring the material or container with you to the veterinary office. If you cannot take your pet to a vet immediately, call ASPCA Poison Control 1-888-426-4435. The sooner you take action following a poison exposure, the better the outcome for your pet.


Not all episodes of vomiting warrant a veterinary visit. However, if your pet is very young or old, it is always best to have it examined. If your pet continues to vomit for more than one day, is trying to vomit, but is not producing anything, or is vomiting multiple times in one day, seek veterinary care. Other reasons to seek veterinary care include blood in the vomit, difficulty breathing, concurrent diarrhea, lethargy and refusal to eat or drink.


As with vomiting, not all cases of diarrhea warrant veterinary care. Some can be managed with a bland diet at home. However, if diarrhea is persisting for more than one day, contains blood, or is concurrent with vomiting, lethargy and a poor appetite and refusal to drink, seeking veterinary attention is advised.


Urinary blockages are much more common in male cats and dogs than in females. The inability to pass urine is a life threatening condition. Other reasons to seek veterinary care include blood in the urine and excessive urination. Seeing blood in urine and loss of litter box training and house breaking habits are suggestive of possible bladder stones or infection. A timely, but not emergent veterinary visit is warranted. Excessive urination with no other symptoms can indicate several disease processes, but is not usually indicative of a life threatening problem and is therefore not an emergent situation.

Heat Stroke

·         excessive panting
brick red gums

If your dog is showing signs of heat stroke, immediately spray it with a hose to help cool the body’s temperature. Smaller dogs can be placed in a tub. Use cool water, never place a dog in an ice cold bath. After a quick cooling attempt, rush your dog to a vet for immediate medical attention.

Preventing Heat Stroke:

Never leave pets in a car on hot days, especially when also humid. Temperatures in cars rise quickly to deadly levels.

Provide plenty of water and shade on warm days.

Be careful with guinea pigs, they are prone to heat stroke

Certain dog breeds are also prone to heat stroke (bull dogs, pugs, boxers, Boston terriers)

Walk your dog first thing in the morning and after the sun has set. Never exercise your pet from 10 am to 3 pm when it is the hottest.




Read 5273 times Last modified on Thursday, 25 July 2019 21:24