The emergency pet hospital is the last place you ever hope to be, but unfortunately, accidents happen. Here, our vets at Riverside Veterinary Hospital in Mandeville shed some light on situations that your pet may experience that requires immediate emergency attention by a veterinarian.
While no owner hopes to ever have to visit a veterinary emergency clinic, sometimes it is unavoidable. Our pets are no different than us in that they can experience an illness, injury, or accident at any time of the day or week.
While there are situations where your pet can wait to be seen until their primary care veterinarian is available, there are also conditions where waiting can be deadly. If you feel that the seriousness of your pet’s condition cannot wait, trust your gut and get them seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are unsure, here is a list of some general situations that require immediate attention by an emergency veterinarian.
Signs of a Veterinary Emergency
- Dilated pupils
- Lameness or inability to walk
- Bloated, swollen or painful abdomen
- Vomiting or blood in diarrhea
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Severe injury (falls, car accidents, broken bones, open wounds)
- Loss of balance
- Obvious pain
- Unable to deliver puppies or kittens
- Inability to urinate or defecate
- Inflammation or injury to the eye
- Difficulty breathing, extreme coughing or choking
- Sudden blindness, staggering or stumbling
- Ingestion of poisonous foods, substances, plants, or bones
Common Veterinary Emergencies For Dogs
If Your Dog Experiences Difficulty Breathing
If your pet exhibits any sign of respiratory distress, it should be evaluated at an emergency animal hospital immediately. While this symptom can be caused by any number of things, a veterinarian can perform diagnostic testing to assess the cause. Our facility offers 24-hour oxygen support for patients that have difficulty oxygenating on their own.
You Notice That Your Dog is Straining to Urinate or Defecate
An inability to pass urine or feces may indicate a blockage. It is important for a veterinarian to assess the cause of the straining and evaluate if your pet is painful. Straining to urinate is especially concerning in male cats. Some male cats will develop crystals or mucous plugs in their urine that will get stuck in their narrow urethra. With nowhere to go, the urine will continue to accumulate in the bladder, causing pain and possible bladder rupture. With an inability to urinate, the body cannot rid itself of waste produced by the kidneys. These enzymes will build up to a toxic level and eventually cause death if treatment is not addressed by an emergency pet hospital in a timely manner.
Your Dog Has a Bloated or Distended Abdomen
A bloated abdomen accompanied by discomfort, stretching, or gagging can be a sign of a life-threatening condition in dogs known as a GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus). In a GDV, the stomach expands from food and gas and proceeds to twist (volvulus). Contents of the stomach cannot be expelled and blood flow is restricted. It is important to seek veterinary care immediately, as this series of events will lead to shock and sudden death. Surgery is needed to treat a GDV; in most cases, the sooner your pet receives treatment, the better. While this condition is still not fully understood, studies have shown that large breed and deep-chested dogs are at higher risk of developing a GDV.
Your Dog is Experiencing Seizures
If your pet has a seizure, a veterinarian should evaluate the cause. While a single seizure may not be life-threatening, multiple or cluster seizures can result in hyperthermia. While idiopathic epilepsy is a common cause of seizures in younger dogs, brain tumors, trauma, and toxins should also be ruled out. Epilepsy is extremely uncommon in cats. Any cat that is having a seizure should be evaluated by a veterinarian at an emergency animal hospital as soon as possible.
Your Dog Has Sustained an Injury to the Eye
When it comes to the eye, time is of the essence. While obvious injuries are veterinary emergencies, excessive squinting or pawing at the eye can also indicate a problem that requires immediate attention. While many injuries to the eye are treatable, the sooner they are addressed, the better the prognosis.
Your Dog Has Had Continued Vomiting or Diarrhea For More Than 24 Hours
While we have all had a pet exhibit gastrointestinal discomfort from time to time, vomiting or diarrhea that does not resolve will lead to dehydration. Several episodes of vomiting or diarrhea need to be evaluated for the underlying cause, and a dehydrated pet may need to be hospitalized at an emergency pet hospital for supportive care.
Your Dog is Experiencing the Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Warmer temperatures increase the risk of your pet becoming overheated while outdoors. Symptoms of heat stroke are: excessive panting, reddened gums, excessive drooling, vomiting/diarrhea, weakness, and lethargy. Left untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.
If Your Dog Has Been Hit By a Car or Other Motor Vehicle
While many injuries sustained from vehicular trauma will be obvious emergencies, some will not. Even if your pet appears to be fine after being hit by a car, internal injuries can take time to reveal themselves. In the event that your pet is hit by a car, it is always best to have a veterinarian perform a complete physical exam to rule out any and all injuries.
You Notice That Your Dog is Unable to Move Their Hind Legs
While there can be several causes, the common cause for this in a dog is IVDD (intervertebral disc disease). If a ruptured disc causes spinal cord compression, a dog can develop difficulty walking or develop paralysis in their hind end. A veterinarian should evaluate your pet as soon as possible to assess the neurologic status and decide if emergency surgery is required. This condition can also develop in cats but is rare. If your cat has difficulty walking on one or both rear legs, this is also a sign of a veterinary emergency. Feline aortic thromboembolism (also known as a saddle thrombus) is a severe condition in which a blood clot becomes lodged in the arteries that supply blood to the back legs. Cats suffering from saddle thrombus will also seem painful, and the affected rear limb(s) will be cold to the touch.
Suspected Exposure / Ingestion of a Toxic Substance or Foreign Object
If you suspect that your pet has come into contact or ingested a toxic substance after hours, call an emergency veterinarian. They may or may not instruct you to contact the Animal Poison Control Center before heading to the hospital. Common toxins seen in dogs are chocolate, antifreeze, grapes, pharmaceuticals, and rodenticide. This list could go on and on however since dogs tend to be mischievous and apt to ingest just about anything. If your pet consumes something out of the ordinary, don’t assume that it is safe. Many are surprised to learn of all the different foods and plants that are toxic to our pets. When in doubt, always contact the Animal Poison Control Center.
A few of the most common toxins are:
- Over-the-counter medications such as pain-killers
- The artificial sweetener Xylitol
- Grapes & Raisins
- Slug bait
- Tulip and Daffodil Bulbs
- Azaleas and rhododendrons
If your dog consumes a foreign object, there is a possibility that it can cause gastric or intestinal obstruction. Catching this situation early can sometimes prevent surgery.
Some patients will benefit from being given a medication that will induce vomiting and remove the object from the stomach. If the object is too large or dangerous to vomit, an endoscope may be used to retrieve the object while the patient is under anesthesia.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.