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How to Recognize a Pet Emergency

Our Berkeley vets know that it isn't always obvious when your pet experiencing a veterinary emergency. Below are just a few signs that indicate that it's time to take your dog or cat to the emergency vet. 

How can I tell if my pet needs emergency care?

A situation requiring urgent veterinary care could occur at any time - day or night - and you'll need to be prepared.

We know that it can be challenging for even the most attentive pet parents to know when their dog, cat, or other pet is in need of emergency care. That's why knowing some of the signs and symptoms that indicate an emergency health issue can be helpful. If you still aren't sure, contact your vet or emergency vet clinic for advice.

What are the signs of a health emergency in dogs or cats?

Pet emergencies can range from accidents and ingestions to injuries, or the sudden onset of disease. Below are some of the most common signs that it's time to take your vet to see the emergency vet:

  • Lameness or inability to walk
  • Bloated, swollen or painful abdomen
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe injury (car accidents, broken bones, gashes)
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Vomiting or
  • Blood in diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme coughing or choking
  • Inability to urinate or defecate normally
  • Ingestion of poisonous foods, substances, plants, or bones
  • Unable to deliver puppies or kittens
  • Obvious signs of pain
  • Staggering or loss of balance
  • Sudden blindness
  • Inflammation or injury to the eye

How do I perform first aid on my pet?

It's important to understand that performing basic first aid on your pet is not intended to replace veterinary care. The first aid techniques below can be helpful in stabilizing your pet for the trip to the emergency animal hospital.

Stop Bleeding

We recommend that you muzzle your pet before beginning. To help stop the bleeding, place a clean gauze pad over the injury, applying pressure with your hand for several minutes until blood clotting begins. A tourniquet of gauze with an elastic band to secure it will be required for severe leg bleeding. Immediately bring your pet to the veterinary clinic. 

Coping With Seizures

Do not attempt to restrain your pet if they are having a seizure. Remove any nearby objects that may hurt your pet. After the seizure is over, keep your pet warm and phone your veterinarian. 

Dealing With Fractures

Muzzle your pet. Lay your pet on a flat surface that can be used as a stretcher to transport them to the vet. If possible, secure your animal to the stretcher, avoiding putting pressure on the injured area.

If Your Pet Is Choking

Your pet may bite out of panic, so it's important to be cautious. Try to check your pet's mouth for objects and try to remove it if possible. Be careful to not accidentally push the object further into your animal's throat. If this is too difficult, don't waste precious time continuing to try. Immediately bring your pet to the vet's office or emergency veterinary clinic for care.

What do I need in order to be prepared for a potential veterinary emergency?

Things to Know in Advance

Being prepared ahead of time for a potential pet emergency may help you to provide your animal with the best possible care quickly. Our Berkeley vets suggest keeping the following at hand in case of an emergency:

  • The phone number for your vet's office
  • The phone number for the closest Emergency Vet Clinic
  • The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
  • A muzzle that fits your dog (and an understanding of how to fit it properly)
  • Directions to the Emergency Vet Clinic
  • Knowledge of basic pet CPR
  • Knowledge of how to stop bleeding

Financial Responsibilities

Due to the amount of diagnostic testing, monitoring, and treatment required, emergency veterinary care can quickly become expensive. It is a pet owner's responsibility to ensure that they can financially care for your pet in a time of crisis.

Prepare for unforeseeable circumstances by putting money aside specifically for emergencies, or by signing up for a pet insurance plan. Putting off veterinary care in order to avoid fees could put your pet's life at risk. 

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.

Is your dog or cat experiencing a veterinary emergency? Contact our Berkeley vets right away for urgent care.

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