Veterinary emergencies are usually unexpected and unavoidable which means you can never be too prepared for (or directly predict) what is going to happen. At the best of times a veterinary emergency is stressful and unsettling – but how do you know when a situation is an urgent emergency? Just like humans, our pets can get ill and suffer from various conditions so it is important to know when to contact an emergency vet.
Generally, all veterinary emergencies are split into three different categories: life-threatening emergencies, emergencies that require immediate action and minor emergencies. Life-threatening emergencies require urgent action and attention and minor emergencies can sometimes be sorted over the phone when a vet gives advice to the owner and tells them what to do.
Below we look at a few potential life-threatening emergencies that require you to contact an emergency vet urgently.
If you are worried that your pet may have been poisoned then you should contact an emergency vet clinic. Sometimes your pet can be poisoned from simply leaving out a chocolate bar or a household chemical. As soon as you notice symptoms of poisoning, contact an emergency vet.
Signs that your pet has been poisoned include difficulty breathing, twitching, heart palpitations, excessive scratching, lethargy, coughing, vomiting and diarrhoea. Your pet can be poisoned in various ways: through inhaling a poison, swallowing poisons, direct skin contact with a poison or through various foods and plants that are poisonous to pets.
Examples of things that are poisonous to our pets include: smoke, batteries, antifreeze, paint, tear gas, glow sticks, tar, stinging nettles, mushrooms, tulips, chocolate, alcohol and mouldy food. In order to help your vet determine the correct type of treatment to give your pet, try to take in a sample of the poison or at least the packet/container.
Choking requires urgent attention and should not under any circumstances be ignored or dismissed. Sometimes choking does not occur in the obvious form; even just loss of appetite or sluggishness can indicate that your pet has swallowed a foreign object. Other signs include coughing, gagging, drooling, difficulty breathing, panic and fainting.
Pets can accidentally swallow a variety of objects so choking is not unusual. For example, cats can easily choke on pieces of their toys that become detached (such as small bells). In order to try and prevent your animal from choking, do not leave small objects around and watch what they eat.
If your pet is choking, seek immediate care from your local vets. Do not wait around to see if they cough something up.
Severe allergic reactions
Animals, just like us, can suffer allergic reactions. Just as humans can experience allergic reactions to things such as insect stings, drugs and nuts, animals can also be affected by anaphylaxis – and, as we do, they require urgent medical attention too.
Signs that your pet is having an allergic reaction to something may include facial swelling, hives (raised lumps and bumps on the skin – sometimes only very noticeable on pets with short fur), itchiness, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Severe allergic reactions can send the animal’s body into shock, leading to difficulty breathing and loss of control of the bladder. Other symptoms can include lethargy and pale gums. Anaphylaxis is extremely serious and can be fatal so make sure you get in touch with or visit an emergency vet clinic immediately.
Trauma from accidents
Pet trauma is common and sometimes unavoidable – this does not mean, however, that your pet does not require medical attention following a trauma. Pet trauma refers to a physical wound or injury following an accident, or the mental distress that an animal can experience after a traumatic event.
Common traumatic events include fighting, falling from a height, bites and being hit by a moving vehicle. Following a pet trauma you should seek help from a vet straight away as it can be unclear how serious the physical trauma is. After a traumatic event (such as a cat falling off a roof or a dog being attacked by another animal) your pet can appear to be fine, however this does not mean that they are not suffering from internal injuries, and therefore need to be seen for a thorough exam straight away.
If your pet suffers from a seizure or a fit it can be extremely stressful and upsetting. Although it is difficult, remaining calm and seeking emergency care from a vet as soon as possible is key. During a seizure your pet does not experience pain, however they are likely to experience confusion and panic. Seizures occur when normal brain activity and function is temporarily disturbed leading to loss of control of muscle activity.
Signs of a fit or seizure include uncontrollable twitching or shaking, drooling, tongue chewing, glazed eyes, uncontrollable bladder and bowels or becoming unresponsive to your touch or voice. Sometimes, seizures only last a few seconds.
There can be many different causes of seizures in dogs which is why it is extremely important that you seek emergency help from a nearby pet clinic. Causes can include kidney disease, a head injury, liver disease, anemia, brain cancer or high or low blood pressure. It is especially important to seek immediate help from a vet if your pet’s seizures last over two minutes or if they experience multiple seizures in 24 hours.
Does your pet need emergency help from your local vets?
If your pet suffers from any of the above then you should contact an emergency vet straight away. Never approach any of these situations with a “wait and see” attitude. They are all serious and require urgent attention. If your pet also suffers from any of the following, then it is worth contacting an emergency vet: stings and bites, if your pet collapses, bloated abdomen, difficulty urinating or loss of appetite.
Tips for keeping calm in an emergency
Veterinary emergencies can be scary, but it is important to remain calm to ensure that you can assess the situation and provide the correct care for your pet. We understand that keeping calm is hard, so here are some tips to help:
- Take deep breaths to help carry oxygen to the brain. This will relax you and allow you to think far more clearly about what steps to take next. If you find yourself entering a state of panic, try breathing in and out slowly to increase oxygen intake.
- Try to be prepared before an emergency actually happens. Make sure that you have a file with all of your pet’s documents and medical records handy so that should a veterinary emergency occur, you have them all to hand. You do not want to be running around looking for various documents as this will only add to the stress.
- Focus on the situation. Instead of entering a state of absolute panic, try to assess the situation and think of a solution (this may be calling an emergency vet). Focussing on the problem at hand can actually make you more calm.
- Be clear in your communication. If you are calling up an emergency vet, make sure you speak clearly and slowly so that they can hear exactly what you are saying and better instruct you on what to do next.
Minster Veterinary Centre: Animal Hospital and 24 Hour Vet
Here at Minster Veterinary Centre our dedicated team of fully qualified veterinary surgeons are available on the phone 24 hours a day to provide the care, advice and emergency help your pet needs. We provide care for a range of different animals, from backyard and household pets to farm and equine animals. We have branches in Calverton, Fernwood, Burton Joyce, Newark and Southwell – so if you are concerned about the health of your pet, get in touch with us today for a consultation. Our services include vaccinations, blood tests, routine dental work, x-rays and ultrasounds.