Pets get themselves into all sorts of trouble, which may leave you wondering whether their latest predicament requires immediate attention or if it can wait until tomorrow. When minutes count, the right decision can mean the difference between treatment success or failure for your pet.
Florida Veterinary Referral Center’s emergency department is here to help when your family veterinarian cannot see your pet right away, or an emergency arises during an evening or weekend. We are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week and we are equipped to handle all types of veterinary emergencies.
Here are 10 situations that indicate your pet requires immediate emergency veterinary care.
#1: Your pet is having trouble breathing
Difficulty breathing can interfere with your pet’s ability to bring in adequate oxygen, which can quickly affect their entire body. Signs your pet is having trouble breathing include:
- Increased respiratory rate
- Increased respiratory effort
- Open-mouth breathing, particularly in cats
- Blue-tinged gums
If your pet is struggling to breathe, handle them gently, as anxiety can cause faster breathing, which can further compromise their condition. Keep your pet calm as someone drives you to our emergency hospital.
#2: Your pet was exposed to a toxic substance
Pets explore the world with their mouths, and often ingest toxic substances. While some toxins cause only mild issues, others can be life-threatening and require emergency care. Your pet’s reaction also depends on their degree of exposure. Toxins that are particularly concerning include:
- Other toxic foods
- Antifreeze products containing ethylene glycol
- Toxic plants, particularly lilies in cats
- Human and veterinary medications
If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a potential toxin, be safe rather than sorry, and seek help immediately. Do not wait to see if toxicity signs develop, because they may be irreversible if internal damage occurs.
#3: Your pet becomes suddenly lame
When your pet chases their ball, only to return to you limping or holding up their leg, your heart sinks. Broken bone? Torn cranial cruciate ligament? Strained muscle? Unfortunately, only a thorough exam and diagnostics, such as X-rays, can identify the cause and determine the situation’s seriousness. If your pet is not back to normal after a few minutes, their discomfort warrants emergency care. Likewise, if your pet suddenly cannot walk, they may be paralyzed, and require immediate treatment.
#4: Your pet is vomiting
Pets vomit for all sorts of reasons, from mild gastritis to a life-threatening intestinal obstruction. Not every vomiting episode requires emergency treatment, but you should seek immediate care in the following situations:
- Your pet has vomited more than twice in one day
- Vomiting is accompanied by other signs, such as diarrhea
- Your pet refuses to eat or drink for more than 24 hours
- Your pet is lethargic
- Your pet ate something they should not have
- Your pet’s vomit contains blood
A veterinary workup is often the only way to know the seriousness of the situation, and our emergency team will thoroughly assess your pet and determine the best course of action.
#5: Your pet was hit by a car
Being hit by a car can cause broken bones, bleeding, and significant internal damage. Unfortunately, brain swelling, organ damage, and internal blood loss may not be immediately evident. If your pet jumps up and runs in the house after being hit, their response may give you a false sense of security, and you may think they do not need emergency care. However, their condition can slowly decline, and immediate intervention is the best way to head off internal damage before it becomes life-threatening. If your pet is hit by a car, take them for emergency care, whether or not their injuries are apparent.
#6. Your pet seems to be in pain
Many conditions can cause your pet pain, from a tooth-root infection to intervertebral disc disease. No pet should endure pain longer than necessary, and pain greater than mild discomfort should be evaluated and treated as soon as possible. Crying and whining are obvious signs your pet is uncomfortable, but other pain signs may be less obvious, including:
- Avoiding being touched
- Having a hunched posture
- Not eating or drinking
You know your pet best and will recognize when they are not themselves. Trust your instincts and seek emergency veterinary care if you think your pet is uncomfortable.
#7: Your pet is having a seizure
Seizures can be caused by many conditions, from toxicity to brain injury to epilepsy. If your pet has a seizure, immediate care to identify the cause is always warranted. If your pet has been diagnosed with a seizure disorder, such as epilepsy, a solitary seizure may not require emergency care. However, if your pet has a seizure lasting longer than five minutes (i.e., status epilepticus) or multiple seizures in one day (i.e., cluster seizure), they require immediate emergency veterinary care.
#8: Your pet is bleeding excessively
If your pet is bleeding, apply firm pressure with a clean towel for several minutes to encourage clotting. Do not wipe the laceration, as that will remove the clot, and bleeding will resume. A bleeding pet requires emergency veterinary care in the following situations:
- Bleeding does not cease after applying pressure for several minutes
- Your pet was hit by a car
- Your pet was bitten by another animal
- The wound contains obvious dirt or contamination
If bleeding does not stop, continue holding pressure on the wound while someone drives you and your pet to the veterinary hospital.
#9: Your pet cannot urinate
Urethral blockage is common in male cats, but can also occur in female cats, and dogs. A blockage, which is typically a urinary stone or plug, causes your pet’s bladder to expand to an uncomfortable size while normally voided toxins accumulate in their body, and they can become quite sick. Signs your pet cannot urinate include:
- Crying in the litter box
- Several trips to the litter box with no urine
- A dog posturing to urinate with no urine produced
Urethral blockage can quickly become life-threatening, so seek immediate care if you suspect your pet is having difficulty urinating.
#10: Your pet has an eye injury
Your pet’s eyesight is vital to their quality of life, and eye problems should be treated immediately to reduce the likelihood of blindness. Unfortunately, your pet leads with their head, and their eyes are vulnerable to trauma and injury. Eye injury signs that warrant emergency care include:
- Redness, or a blood-shot appearance
- Excessive tearing
- Ocular discharge
- Third eyelid elevation
- Anl enlarged eyeball
- Forward eyeball displacement (i.e., proptosis)
If you suspect your pet has an eye injury, emergency treatment can preserve their vision and quality of life.
Our emergency service is always ready for your pet who finds themselves in any predicament. If you are unsure whether your pet needs emergency care, give us a call, and we will help you make the best decision.