While some emergencies can be obvious, there can be times when you aren't entirely sure if you should bring your cat or dog in for emergency care. Here, our Columbia veterinarians share the signs that your pet needs to see an emergency vet and what to do when emergencies happen.

How Do I Know if My Pet Needs Emergency Care?

A situation in which emergency veterinary care is needed can happen at any time - day or night - and you'll need to be prepared. 

However, even the most vigilant pet parent may find it challenging to know when their cat, dog, or other pet requires emergency care. That's why it's helpful to know some of the signs and symptoms that indicate an emergency health issue is happening to your pet. If you still aren't sure, contact your vet or local emergency veterinary clinic for advice. 

Signs That Your Animal is Experiencing a Health Emergency

A pet emergency may come in the form of injuries, sudden onset of illness or disease, ingestion of a foreign object, or an accident that causes trauma to your pet's body. Here are some of the most common signs that it's time to seek emergency veterinary care:

  • Seizures
  • Dilated pupils
  • Swollen, bloated, or painful abdomen 
  • Lameness or inability to walk
  • Severe injury (broken bones, gashes, car accidents) 
  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Loss of balance
  • Inability to urinate or defecate
  • Inflammation or injury to the eye
  • Unable to deliver kittens or puppies
  • Sudden blindness, stumbling, or staggering
  • Extreme coughing, difficulty breathing, or choking
  • Ingestion of poisonous plants, bones, substances, or foods 
  • Obvious pain 
  • Vomiting or blood in diarrhea 
  • Unconsciousness 

Be Prepared For a Veterinary Emergency

What You Should Know in Advance

You never know when an emergency might strike, but being prepared for a pet emergency may help you to provide your animal with the best possible care quickly. Our Columbia 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 (ER for pets)
  • The phone number for the Animal Poison Control Center
  • How to muzzle your dog when he's in pain so he doesn't bite others
  • Directions to an emergency veterinary clinic
  • Knowledge of basic pet CPR
  • Knowledge of how to stop bleeding

Basic First Aid for Animals 

Please note that giving your pet basic first aid is not intended to replace qualified, professional veterinary care. It is solely to help stabilize your pet for a trip to your emergency cat and dog veterinarian. 

If you are unsure of what you should do in your pet's specific emergency, contact our veterinary team for advice. 

Applying Basic Pet First Aid

Below are some basic first-aid tips for pets like dogs and cats that you may need to use before bringing your pet to an emergency vet clinic.

  • To be safe, muzzle your pet. Even the nicest pets can bite when they're hurt, so it's best to be careful. Ask your vet in advance how to use gauze to tie a muzzle if you don't have a muzzle handy.
  • Press a clean, thick pad of gauze over any cuts or scrapes, and keep your hand on the wound until the blood starts to clot. Keep the pressure on for at least three minutes before checking to see if the blood is indeed clotting.
  • Keep the pet as quiet and warm as you can.
  • If you think the pet has broken bones, find a flat surface, like a board or stretcher, that you can move the pet on from place to place. Using a blanket or towel to tie the pet to the surface may also be a good idea.
  • Remember that any first aid you give your pet should be followed by veterinary care right away. First aid care is not the same as veterinary care, but it could save your pet's life until it can see a vet.

Coping With Seizures

Do not try to restrain your pet. Attempt to remove any objects that can cause harm to your pet. After the seizure is over, keep your pet warm while you phone your vet. 

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 them 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.

Maury County Veterinary Hospital offers emergency care on a limited basis during our regular clinic hours. Our caring team can help pets in most emergencies. Call your vet to find out how to move an injured animal based on your specific situation. Suppose your pet needs emergency or urgent care outside of our office hours. In that case, you may want to use your favorite search engine to look for emergency veterinary care in or near Columbia.

Financial Responsibilities for Emergency Veterinary Care

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

Prepare for unforeseeable circumstances by putting money aside specifically for emergencies, applying for financing or signing up for a pet insurance plan. Putting off veterinary care to avoid emergency 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 pet in need of emergency veterinary care? Contact our Columbia vets right away or go to your nearest after-hours emergency veterinary hospital.