No one wants to imagine their beloved companion in a life-or-death situation, but chances are good that a pet emergency will develop at one time or another. You may not be trained in veterinary medicine, but recognizing an emergency and seeking immediate treatment for your pet can mean the difference between losing them and enjoying many more years together. The following 10 situations always warrant immediate veterinary attention, whether from Walnut Creek Vet Hospital or a local emergency hospital, if you face an emergency when we are not available. 

#1: A pet having difficulty breathing

If your pet is struggling to breathe, breathing rapidly, or gasping for air, or has exaggerated chest movements, that may signal a respiratory emergency. Your pet with respiratory distress will go downhill quickly if they do not receive adequate oxygen, so minutes count in this situation. Transport your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately so oxygen can be administered, and diagnostics can be initiated to identify the cause. 

#2: Intractable vomiting in pets

While not every vomiting episode is cause for concern, you should seek care for a pet who vomits multiple times in a 24-hour period, is not improving, or is getting worse. Extreme lethargy, diarrhea, and lack of appetite also indicate a serious situation. Although your pet’s vomiting may be due to simple gastritis, vomiting can also indicate an intestinal obstruction or acute kidney failure, and only a thorough evaluation can differentiate an emergency from a less-concerning condition.

#3: Pets who are bleeding severely

Traumatic injuries as a result of car accidents, dog or cat fights, and other unplanned scuffles can result in a skin laceration. If your pet’s bleeding does not stop after you have applied firm pressure for five minutes, seek immediate help, as excessive blood loss will compromise your pet’s condition. All skin lacerations and puncture wounds should be treated as soon as possible, as infection is likely, especially from a bite wound. 

#4: Pets with pale or blue mucous membranes

You can assess your pet’s mucous membranes, which should be pink and moist, in several places, including:

  • Gums and tongue
  • Inner lining of the eyelids
  • Inner lining of the vulva, in a female dog
  • Inner lining of the prepuce, in a male dog

If your pet’s mucous membranes appear pale, white, gray, or blue-tinged, they are not receiving enough oxygen, and should be evaluated immediately. Carefully carry your pet to the car, call ahead to alert the nearest veterinary hospital, and let another person drive while you monitor your pet. 

#5: Pets unable to urinate

A small bladder stone or inflammatory debris can obstruct your pet’s urethra, preventing them from eliminating toxin-filled urine. If the obstruction is not relieved quickly, toxins will accumulate, your pet’s kidneys may become compromised, and their condition will steadily decline. Male cats are most likely to develop a urethral obstruction because they have long, narrow urethras, but other pets can also experience this life-threatening condition. If your pet is straining to urinate, crying in the litterbox, or urinating only a few drops at a time, have them evaluated immediately.

#6: Pets who cannot walk

A sudden mobility loss is always cause for concern, as the condition may involve a spinal cord injury or lack of blood flow. Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) can cause a disc in your dog’s back to suddenly compress their spinal cord, leading to weakness, pain, or complete paralysis. Surgery must be performed in hours to relieve the compression, and for the best prognosis. In cats, a blood clot can block circulation to the back legs, causing sudden rear limb paralysis. Although corrective surgery is not typically an option, affected cats are often in excruciating pain, and require immediate care.

#7: Toxin exposure in pets

Natural curiosity often causes pets to eat dangerous substances. Call us immediately if your pet eats something toxic, including:

  • Antifreeze 
  • Rodent bait
  • Toxic foods, including chocolate, grapes and raisins, xylitol, macadamia nuts, raw yeast dough, onions, and garlic
  • Poisonous plants
  • Fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides

Toxicity may not cause immediate signs, but can lead to life-threatening organ failure if treatment is not initiated right away. Seek immediate treatment If you know your pet ate something they shouldn’t, or if they become suddenly ill. 

#8: Seizuring pets

A seizure can be caused by a variety of conditions, from epilepsy to toxin exposure. Some situations, such as a brain injury or toxicity, require immediate care for a favorable outcome. Epilepsy may not be an emergency, but a thorough evaluation and diagnostic testing are necessary to determine the cause for your pet’s seizures, and help us outline a treatment plan. Always seek immediate help for a pet’s first seizure, or a seizure lasting longer than five minutes.

#9: Painful pets

Acute pain always warrants immediate care, since your pet is obviously uncomfortable, and a serious condition may be the cause. Signs your pet may be in pain include: 

  • Whining, whimpering, or crying 
  • Shaking
  • Avoiding contact
  • Hiding
  • Grumpiness
  • Walking with a hunched posture

Call us immediately, or contact an emergency hospital for after-hours care, if you think your pet is in pain. You would not want to suffer through the night, and neither should your pet. 

#10: Pets with an injured eye

Your pet relies heavily on their vision, and any condition that threatens their eyesight is an emergency. Some serious situations, such as a proptosed eyeball or penetrating foreign body, will be immediately evident, but any redness or irritation should be addressed immediately. Your pet may rub and traumatize their uncomfortable eye, creating a bigger problem. Glaucoma (i.e., elevated intraocular pressure) can manifest as seemingly innocuous redness, but can quickly progress to blindness without treatment. 

Recognizing that your pet’s situation is an emergency can be difficult, but we are here to help. Contact us if you think your pet may be in trouble, and we can help you determine whether immediate care is necessary.