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Emergency Care

Pet Health Emergencies: Do You Know What to Do?

By June 19, 2023 No Comments

Emergencies are something we believe every pet owner should be ready for. And while it may be stressful to think of an emergency happening, the more prepared you are, the more quickly you can get your pet the help they need.

Our veterinary team has dealt with thousands of pet health emergencies, so we want to share some common pet emergencies, and what you can do to help your pet before coming to our veterinary hospital.

The most important things to remember are to keep calm, don’t panic, and contact us. If it’s after hours, we’ll have an emergency number for you to contact for help.


**BE VERY CAREFUL when assessing or transporting your pet! Pets that aren’t well or are in pain are prone to panic. Even the friendliest cat or dog may bite.**


Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop within five minutes
Attempt to control bleeding by covering the wound with a clean absorbent compress and applying direct pressure. If bleeding is severe, you can apply a tourniquet above the wound just tight enough to significantly reduce the flow of blood. Be sure to loosen it temporarily every twenty minutes. Retighten if the bleeding hasn’t slowed. Contact us for specific first aid instructions for controlling bleeding on the way to the veterinary hospital.

Unexplained bleeding

If you pet is bleeding from their nose, mouth, rectum, is coughing up blood or has blood in their urine, contact us right away. Likewise, abnormal bruising showing up in the skin, whites of the eyes or in the mouth can indicate a severe condition that is best diagnosed and treated right away.

Choking, difficulty breathing or nonstop coughing and gagging
Any trouble breathing warrants an emergency trip to a veterinarian. If you are confident your dog is choking on something, you can try the Heimlich maneuver. If they have choked on a ball you can use a technique to maneuver the ball from the throat back into the mouth.

Straining to urinate
Straining to urinate, passing very little or no urine while straining can be a life-threatening emergency. Any blockage in the urinary tract can quickly lead to kidney failure and potentially death. Blockages need to be cleared as soon as possible to minimize permanent kidney damage.


If you suspect your pet has eaten something toxic, time is of the essence. Often inducing vomiting can remove toxins quickly, preventing them from causing significant harm to your pet. If available, please bring any packaging from the ingested (or suspected) substance with your pet so we know exactly what and how much was eaten. This will help guide your pet’s treatment.

Eye injuries
Any problems involving the eye or eyelids can worsen quickly if not treated appropriately as soon as possible. If your dog is squinting, avoiding bright light, has discharge from one eye, an eyelid injury, or any other abnormality of their eyes, call us right away. We can triage them over the phone and determine when they need to be seen by our veterinary team.

Seizures or convulsions often result from abnormal activity in the brain causing uncoordinated and uncontrolled movement. In severe cases, your pet is not usually conscious of what they are doing so do not go near their head as you put yourself at risk of being bit. Take a video of your pet so you can show your veterinarian what happened and note when it occurred, for how long, whether your pet showed any response to your voice, or if they urinated or defecated during the episode. Seizure activity usually only lasts a few minutes and then your pet will slowly return to normal. Call us if your pet experiences a seizure. If the seizure continues beyond five minutes, your pet will need to visit a veterinarian right away for medication to control the seizure and reduce damage to their brain.

Sudden non-weightbearing lameness, fractures or paralysis
If your pet suddenly becomes lame in one limb, carefully check that limb for injury (remember, pets can bite from pain):

  • Check between the paw pads for stones, thorns or other objects that can lodge there and cause pain;
  • Check the nails for fractures—especially where they meet the toes;
  • Check for cuts or bleeding, abnormal heat or swelling.

Note where your pet is reluctant to let you touch. If there are no significant abnormalities, it may be okay to simply rest them for a day and monitor for ongoing lameness or other problems. However, if your pet has an obvious injury such as a laceration, significant swelling, obvious fracture, or is unable to move the limb they should be seen by a veterinarian right away.

These are just a few emergency situations that can occur in which your pet may need to see us right away. If you have any concerns about your pet, please contact our veterinary team so that we can help you determine what is the best way to help your pet.

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